Should the Reds Sign Grady Sizemore?
From 2006 to 2008, Grady Sizemore was a big deal. He slashed no worse than .277/.375/.462, making three All-Star games and winning two Gold Gloves.
But since 2008, Sizemore hasn’t been the same type of player. That is, of course, when he’s actually played. Battling through injuries, the ex-Indian saw his numbers dip dramatically from 2009 through 2011, and he hasn’t had a plate appearance since that 2011 season.
Now Sizemore’s looking to return to the Majors, and a team that has reported to be interested is the Cincinnati Reds. With an inexperienced center fielder of their own, would a move for Sizemore make sense for the 2014 Reds?
Billy Hamilton’s Help
At face value, it seems a little strange for a team to go after a guy who hasn’t hit a big league ball since 2011. However, this is a situation of upside more than anything else.
First and foremost, the Reds lost Shin-Soo Choo over the offseason, their center field leadoff man who ranked fourth in the majors in OBP last year (second in the NL behind teammate Joey Votto) and 11th in wOBA. Choo had a WAR of 5.2, and will now be replaced by young speedster Billy Hamilton, who saw limited action (22 plate appearances) with the Reds a season ago.
There’s little chance that a 23 year-old with almost zero big league experience is able to jump in and replicate Choo’s value. That leaves the Reds with a massive question mark in center, as Hamilton – who wasn’t overly impressive outside of his ridiculous speed in the minors – will take over Choo’s spot.
In a perfect world, Hamilton would be eased into the Majors, as his minor league slash of .256/.308/.343 was nothing special. However, Hamilton makes up for a potential lack of bat with his speed – he stole an insane 155 bases in the minors in 2012, and another 75 last season. And when called up to the Majors, Hamilton went 13 of 14 stealing.
Speed’s great and all, but Hamilton will need to learn how to get on base first. There’s a concern with the Reds center fielder, as he saw a pretty significant decline in production when he moved to AAA before going to Cincinnati last year, as his BB% dropped from 16.9% (213 plate appearances) to 6.9% (123), while his wOBA went from .373 to .300. Currently, the Steamer projection model has Hamilton at a .305 OBP for this upcoming season, a significant decline from Choo's number a year ago.
I think it should be noted that we don't understate what Billy Hamilton can do with his legs though. Sure, his OBP may barely get to over .300 (which, again, is where the Steamer projection model has him) this year, but higher OBP may not necessarily equate to more runs scored in the case of the Reds and Billy Hamilton. For instance, if we were to place another hitter - a slower one - with an OBP of .375 (which the Reds don't really have to begin with), Hamilton may still generate as many runs simply due to a higher rate of scoring using his speed.
However, one of the main reasons Choo was so beneficial in the lineup was that he was able to get at-bats for Reds hitters, which is where OBP plays a key role and why most view it as so important for leadoff guys.
The fact of the matter is, Hamilton getting time for the Reds right now is risky, let alone having him lead off for the team. Though we’ve seen plenty of youngsters make it big in the Majors over the last couple of seasons, Hamilton hasn’t really shown the ability to get on base, something that Choo made a living off doing. With the bats of Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce and Joey Votto behind him, Hamilton’s ability to get on base is more important than it ever was at the minor league level, where he really didn’t put up astonishing numbers.
But that, I think, is where this Sizemore deal comes into play. Sizemore, back in the day (I say that as if 2008 was forever ago), batted leadoff and has plenty of experience doing so. At the very least, signing him to a small deal (perhaps a million a year with incentives) could help with Hamilton’s development. After all, the Reds need him to get a move on quickly.
Sizemore's glory days saw him getting on base at a 38% rate, which is a top 20 number in today's MLB. If he can help, mentor and teach Hamilton how to increase his own value, then a Sizemore signing would be more than beneficial.
And hey, in a perfect scenario for Cincinnati, Sizemore could become an ounce of the player he used to be, allowing the team to continue to ease Hamilton into playing big league ball.