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Attempting to make a comeback after injuries forced a two-year hiatus from professional baseball, Grady Sizemore was the feel-good story of spring training for the Boston Red Sox.
Three months later, that good will is long gone.
The Red Sox designated Sizemore for assignment on Tuesday after the former All-Star managed to hit just .216/.288/.324 in 52 games, striking out 41 times against just 19 walks. The move also came with Sizemore 20 at bats away from collecting a $250,000 performance bonus, and 12 days away from receiving another $250,000 roster bonus.
Coincidence? I think not. Let me be clear – Sizemore played his way of the Red Sox roster. He was a gaping hole in the Red Sox lineup, displaying almost no power outside of his second at bat of the season when he launched one of his two home runs. His at bats were brutal to watch as he beat 44.1% of his batted balls into the ground, his highest mark since his second year (his first full season) in the majors. Similarly, his ground ball to fly ball ratio is the third highest of his career (1.19), only the third time over one — not a good sign for a hitter who made his career hitting 20-30 home runs.
In addition, the rest of the Red Sox outfielders made Sizemore’s presence on the roster superfluous. Despite also barely hitting above the Mendoza line (.202/.289/.293), Jackie Bradley Jr. has been swallowing fly balls anywhere within three area codes of center field. Brock Holt continues to do his best superhero impression (at every outfield position, no less). Daniel Nava has improbably, miraculously returned from Pawtucket as a passable major league hitter, batting .361/.452/.444 so far for the month of June. After spending most of the season on the 15-day DL, Shane Victorino is close to returning from a rehab assignment at Pawtucket.
As for Jonny Gomes? He gets a free pass based on the beard and clubhouse presence alone.
All that considered, it’s hard to think the upcoming performance and roster bonuses didn’t play a role in Sizemore getting DFA’d. The Red Sox just splurged $10 million and change to bring back incumbent shortstop Stephen Drew, and will almost certainly need to make additional moves before the trade deadline in order to put themselves in position for a serious playoff run. Creating even just that little extra financial (and roster) flexibility could be helpful.
Just listen to Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington’s quote talking about the decision to move on from Sizemore:
“From a medical treatment standpoint he was doing well. He wasn’t really requiring any special attention or treatment,” Cherington said. “The grind of a major league season and playing every day, it’s hard to predict what’s going to happen to the body. Since he hadn’t been through it, he may just need to go through it a little more to find himself. Unfortunately we just weren’t in a position to give him more time.”
Not in a postion to give him more time… Hmmm… Cherington is of course referencing the Red Sox’ inability to afford waiting for Sizemore to turn his performance around given their current place in the standings, and how Sizemore wasn’t able to provide that defensive presence they may have initially expected from him in center field.
But once I became aware Sizemore was so close to an extra $500,000, it became impossible for me not to read deeper into Cherington’s statement and interpret that final sentence as hinting at the time sensitivity of Sizemore’s pending bonuses.
But I’ll give Ben the benefit of the doubt. As Red Sox manager John Farrell mentioned, “Out of respect to Grady, we wanted to make the decision sooner rather than later if there are other opportunities for him.”
Hopefully the timing of the move gives Sizemore the chance to latch on with another major league team and continue along the comeback trail. I can’t imagine there’s a Red Sox fan out there who doesn’t agree with Cherington when he said, “We’ll be rooting hard for him. We’d all love to see him playing in the big leagues and playing well again.
“Hopefully that happens for him.”