Cleveland Indians Re-Sign Grady Sizemore

When the Cleveland Indians declined his $9 million option for 2012, it looked as though Grady Sizemore‘s tenure with the Tribe was over.

Turns out that wasn’t the case.

The Indians announced Wednesday that they had re-signed their former face of the franchise to a one-year deal worth $5 million with a series of incentives that could bump his salary up to $9 million—the same amount he would have earned had Cleveland picked up his original option.

Sizemore will get a $500,000 bonus if he wins the AL Comeback Player of the Year award next year, with the remaining $3.5 million to be potentially distributed based on other awards as well as through performance bonuses. The 706 plate appearances he had in 2005 (his lowest total in a full season before 2009) would be enough for him to reach all of his benchmarks in the latter category.

Sizemore also expects to continue to play center field, his agent said, meaning Michael Brantley moving over permanently would be Plan B—and Asdrubal Cabrera is almost assuredly not moving to the outfield.

For his career, Sizemore has hit .269/.357/.473 with 139 homers, 134 steals, and 30.2 fWAR over eight MLB seasons, all with the Indians. Injuries have taken a toll the last few years (he’s averaged only 70 games played since 2009, including just 33 in 2010), and even when he’s been on the field his defense isn’t what it used to be and his plate discipline has declined dramatically. But his power is still there, and he can still be an intimidating hitter.

This is a very risky signing that could end up being seen as a genius move or as a huge mistake: $5 million is a lot for a small-market team to pay for a player who can’t stay on the field, but $9 million is a very reasonable price for a contender to pay if he can return to his former MVP-caliber form.

Overall, though, I think it’s a great move, and both objectively and emotionally I’m thrilled to see Grady back in Cleveland.

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