Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 11/11/11

With all the rumors swirling about a possible B.J. Upton trade, the Rays have to consider who will be their outfielders of the future. Upton will not be a part of the picture as he’s one year away from free agency and is extremely unlikely to give the Rays a discount. They have Desmond Jennings and apparently Matt Joyce assured occupying two of their outfield spots in the coming seasons. But who’s the third outfielder?

I really like Brandon Guyer as I have stated again and again. Guyer is a 26 year old outfielder with power and speed who plays a great defensive right field, and I think that he could be a really good major league outfielder. But even if the Rays like Guyer as much as I do, in the short term they don’t have a designated hitter and there will be at-bats available in the outfield as well. Could they go outside the organization?

If they do, there’s a very interesting free agent candidate who the Rays could be interested in: Grady Sizemore. Sizemore, still just 29, is a shell of the player who finished in the top 12 of the MVP voting three years in a row including a 33/38 (homers/steals) season in 2008 as he finished 10th in the voting and won a Silver Slugger along with a Gold Glove. Since suffering an elbow injury that limited him to 106 games in 2009, Sizemore has dealt with a multitude of problems, suffering a knee injury that eventually required micro-fracture surgery, a rare surgery for baseball players, and subsequently missed the majority of the 2011 season with additional knee problem and a Sports Hernia injury. SIzemore showed flashes of his former self at times in 2011, hitting .378 with 4 home runs after his season debut in mid-April. But Sizemore hasn’t put together a good full season since 2008 and any team that signs him is taking the risk that he gets injured again. But then again, if Sizemore somehow manages to stay healthy, he could be an All-Star and whatever deal he signs will turn into a steal. But what are the chances that Sizemore will actually stay healthy?

According to The Advanced Baseball Injury Database, 40 baseball players since 2002 have suffered a knee injury causing them to miss upwards of 100 days of a season. Of those 40, just 9 have returned to their pre-injury level for any significant amount of time (most of them went from starters to backups or starts to relievers if their careers didn’t end) with Carlos Beltran’s and Endy Chavez’s cases along with Sizemore’s still to be determined. Some prominent players such as Jose Reyes, Yovani Gallardo, and Jason Kubel were just fine after surgery. But for many others, the injury ended or derailed their careers.

But I think Sizemore could have a leg up on previous players who have dealt with knee problems. He’s a great athlete who has been playing centerfield his whole career. Maybe a move to a corner outfield spot could help ease the pain on his knees. Also, Sizemore’s days as a basestealer are over. But, he still has good power, as evidenced by his performance in 2011. He hit 21 doubles, a triple, and 10 homers among his 60 hits and he still has the bat speed to be a very good hitter. Sizemore will never be the 30-30 threat he was in the past, but his career is nowhere near over.

Grady Sizemore may never be the player he once was. But his bat speed and power are still there and if he can stay healthy, he will be a productive big league player. (cleveland.com)

With all this in mind, what will the price range be on Sizemore? He’s in a similar situation to the one that former Brewers hurler Ben Sheets was in the 2009 offseason, and Sheets got a 1-year, 10 million dollar contact from the Oakland A’s. That won’t happen again. Sizemore will likely also be signed to a 1-year deal, but his will be much more incentive-based. Expect something like a 1 million dollar base salary and then incentives that could bring the contract up to say 5 million dollars. Many teams will be in the hunt for Sizemore at that price, and it will be up to Sizemore and his agents to find the best fit.

I think if a B.J. Upton trade happens this offseason, the Rays may be the perfect fit for Sizemore in order to keep him healthy and get his value up for the 2012 offseason. Without Upton, the Rays would have at-bats open at the corner outfield spots along with designated hitter. Even if rookie Brandon Guyer emerges as a very good player, Sizemore could get consistent at-bats as the designated hitter and if he stays healthy, probably push Matt Joyce to DH and get some starts in the corner outfield spots. If Sizemore could stay healthy, he would be a force in the middle of the Rays lineup and be put into a position to shine if only he could stay healthy. Will Sizemore sign with the Rays? Well, no outlet has reported the Rays having even interest in Sizemore, but that’s because no B.J. Upton trade has happened. But if an Upton trade happens, the Rays will take a long look at Sizemore, and don’t be too surprised if Grady Sizemore is a Ray in 2012.

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.

PLAYERS: BJ Upton
TEAMS: Tampa Bay Rays
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