The Return of Grady Sizemore
The Boston Red Sox made us all feel a bit nostalgic on Wednesday when they signed former All-Star, and cautionary injury tale, Grady Sizemore to one year, major league contract worth $750,000. With incentives, he has the potential to earn up to $6 million this season.
Sizemore, of course, was once one of the most promising and explosive young players in the game. From 2005 to 2008, his age 22-25 seasons, Sizemore was a truly dynamic five-tool talent with excellent defensive skills in center field and a bat that could play well above-average at any position. During that four-year stint, Sizemore hit .281/.372/.496 with a 128 OPS+, .373 wOBA, 129 wRC+, and a 26.9 WAR. He averaged 41 doubles, 27 home runs, 116 runs scored, 84 walks, and a 6.7 WAR per season during that span. He was essentially Mike Trout-lite*.
*Interestingly enough, Sizemore was a common comparison to Trout as the latter was climbing the ranks of the minors. Of course, Trout has exceeded even the wildest of expectations.
Then, it all came crashing down.
In 2009, Sizemore injured both his groin and elbow at the start of Spring Training, and though he would still play 106 games that year (hitting a solid, but non-Sizemore-like .248/.343/.445), he clearly wasn’t the same player. He elected to undergo season-ending surgery on his elbow in early September. Just a week after that surgery, he would undergo another, this time to treat a sports hernia.
2010 was a heartbreaking affair for both Sizemore and the Indians, as he would injure his left knee and undergo a season-ending microfracture surgery just over a month into the season. He would return to the Indians in April of 2011, but would spend time on the DL in both May and July before having to have yet another sports hernia surgery. He would return for 10 games in September, but wound up playing a total of just 71 games on the season, hitting a pedestrian .224/.285/.422, albeit with 10 home runs and 21 doubles.
After declining their club option on him for 2012, the Indians re-signed Sizemore to a one-year, $5 million deal that winter, but he would undergo back surgery in Spring Training, and following a series of setbacks to both his back and knee, he had yet another microfracture surgery that September, and wound up missing the entirety of the season.
Entering what is now his age 31 season, Sizemore serves as a cautionary tale to any team with a young, elite-level talent. He was at the top of the baseball world in 2008, but just four years later he was out of a job.
Still, the Red Sox decided to take a gamble on him, and I have to say, I really like it. With Jackie Bradley jr, Shane Victorino, and Daniel Nava set as the starting outfielders this year, and Johnny Gomes as a solid back-up in the corners and at DH, the Red Sox won’t have to force him into a high-volume role until they feel he’s ready. The reward here clearly outweighs the risk, and it wouldn’t be too surprising if Sizemore recovers some of his old form.
You can follow Justin Millar on twitter at @justinmillar1, or email him at Justinmillar1@gmail.com.