UPDATE II: According to Buster Olney of ESPN.com, a deal between the Indians and Sizemore will get done.
UPDATE: Sizemore’s agent, Joe Urbon, confirmed to Rosenthal that serious discussions with the Indians are taking place. The 29-year-old could make up his mind as soon as this weekend.
7:42 PM: Sources tell FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal than the Indians and Grady Sizemore are involved in serious talks and will likely agree to a one-year deal.
It’s something of a surprise, given that the team declined Sizemore’s $9 million option for 2012 earlier this month.
The 29-year-old Sizemore, formerly one of the AL’s very best players, has missed much of the last two seasons due to knee problems. He hit .224/.285/.422 with 10 homers in 71 games last season.
Sizemore was only interested in a one-year deal this winter, as he hopes to rebuild his value and land a much bigger contract next winter. That’s what adds to the mixed feelings here; if Sizemore does return to old form, the Indians will have a difficult time re-signing him to the $15 million-$20 million per year contract he’s going to deserve.
Given what Sizemore is right now, the Indians might well be better off replacing him with a right-handed-hitting corner outfielder. Left fielder Michael Brantley would be just fine in center, and Sizemore’s return makes the Indians way lefty heavy. Brantley, right fielder Shin-Soo Choo, DH Travis Hafner, second baseman Jason Kipnis and third-base candidates Jack Hannahan and Lonnie Chisenhall are all left-handed hitters.
The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.
Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.
Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”
Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.
The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.