The Cleveland Indians have declined center fielder Grady Sizemore‘s $9 million option for 2012, according to the Plain Dealer‘s Paul Hoynes. Sizemore, who is now a free agent, is still owed a $500,000 buyout.
The Indians have exclusive rights to negotiate a new contract with Sizemore, 29, until midnight Thursday morning, at which point the other 29 teams can begin to negotiate with him (already a hot topic of discussion).
Sizemore does not qualify as a Type A or B free agent, so even if Cleveland would be willing to risk offering him arbitration he wouldn’t net the team compensation draft picks.
When Sizemore signed his current contract before the 2006 season, the idea that the Indians would not exercise his option for 2012 seemed ridiculous. At age 23, he had already established himself as the face of the franchise and one of the best outfielders in baseball. After MVP-caliber seasons in 2006 and 2008, his option looked like it would be a no-brainer, and even after Sizemore suffered injuries in 2009 and 2010 it still seemed likely that the Indians would exercise it.
But Sizemore’s inability to stay on the field—he’s averaged just 70 games over the last three seasons—has become a recurring theme, and he underwent yet another knee surgery earlier this month. There’s no way the Indians could count on his knees holding up if he remains the everyday center fielder, and with Travis Hafner entrenched at DH there’s no other obvious place to put him.
Even when he’s been in the lineup, Sizemore hasn’t been quite himself. His power is still there, but his plate discipline has been in free fall. His once-great basestealing abilities have left him, and even if he were up to playing the field everyday his Gold Glove defense has declined drastically.
Throw in the fact that fan sentiment has turned against him and cutting him was the clear choice—our writers unanimously agreed that declining the option was the right move. If he can stay healthy he’d still be a valuable contributor, but to a small-market team the risk isn’t worth $9 million. Perhaps the Indians will be able to re-sign Sizemore to a cheaper or incentive-based deal, but his time in Cleveland is probably over.
Meanwhile, the Indians picked up Fausto Carmona’s $7 million option for 2012.