Indians bring back Fausto Carmona, cut loose Grady Sizemore

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Fausto Carmona will stay with Cleveland in 2012 after the team exercised his $7 million option, but the Indians made Grady Sizemore a free agent by choosing a $500,000 buyout rather than pay him $8.5 million following another injury wrecked season.

Once upon a time Sizemore was one of the best young players in baseball and the Indians’ biggest long-term building block, but he hasn’t been productive since 2009 and hasn’t been healthy and productive since 2008.

During the past two seasons he’s missed 220 of a possible 324 games while hitting just .220 with a .659 OPS and knee injuries cast some doubt on his ability to be an asset in center field at age 29. I’ll be interesting to see if any teams are willing to risk offering him more than a one-year deal, because had Sizemore been a free agent a few years ago $100 million offers would’ve piled up.

Carmona failed to build on a strong 2010, going 7-15 with a 5.25 ERA in 32 starts, but the Indians aren’t ready to cut ties with the 28-year-old right-hander and he’d likely have had little trouble securing a multi-year deal on the open market.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉