Here are two fellas not exactly tearing up over the World Series finale being postponed until at least today — Indians president Mark Shapiro and general manager Chris Antonetti.
And here’s why: The moment the Rangers put the finishing touch on the St. Louis “Can You Hear Me Now” Cardinals, the Indians will have 72 hours to make a pair of super-difficult (and potentially unpopular) decisions.
The Indians hold 2012 club options on center fielder Grady Sizemore and starting pitcher Fausto Carmona, two guys who have fallen on hard times, but two twenty-somethings with four All-Star appearances between them.
Sizemore, 29, has an $8.5 million club option, with a $500,000 buyout. Carmona, 27, has a $7 million club option, with no buyout.
It seems like forever ago, but it really wasn’t too long ago that Sizemore was one of baseball’s golden children, a superb defender with speed, power — and good looks, to boot. (The Indians really played up the latter, with the famed “Grady’s Ladies” fan section.) From 2006-08, he finished 11th, 12th and 10th in the American League MVP voting, and was seemingly on his way to becoming one of the game’s greats.
But in 2009, after averaging 160 games a season from 2005-08, injuries struck for the first time. He missed 50-plus games with an elbow injury that eventually required surgery; the following season, a left knee injury that eventually required surgery cut his season short in mid-May; and this year, more knee problems and a sports hernia surgery (for good measure) cost him parts of April, May and July, all of August, and the end of September.
The last three years, Sizemore has played in just 210 games. Over that time, he’s batted just .234 with 28 home runs and 109 RBIs. And his stolen bases, a huge part of his game at his peak, have been almost nonexistent.
As for Carmona, injuries haven’t been his issue as much as flat-out inconsistency. In 2007, his first year in the rotation — after a disastrous run in the bullpen the year before — he was 19-8 with a 3.06 ERA, and finished fourth in the AL Cy Young voting. Last year, he had 13 wins, a 3.77 ERA and his first All-Star selection.
The other years? Well, it’s been ugly, with ERAs of 5.44, 6.32 and, this year, 5.25. As is the case with many sinker-ball pitchers, when that pitch is on, it’s impressive. When it’s not? It’s brutal, with home runs by the bunches; this year, he coughed up a career-high 22.
If the Indians decline Sizemore’s option, he’s free to walk. If the Indians decline Carmona’s, he isn’t. Carmona still would be arbitration-eligble, so Cleveland’s brass could go that route in hopes of securing a discount. That said, arbitrators aren’t big on significant paycuts, and Carmona already made $6.3 million this year.
If I had to wager a guess, I’d assume the Indians bring back Sizemore. Letting him go would be a P.R. debacle in a city that remains in love with Grady. Plus, if he’s healthy, he still has the potential to be a superstar again — and, boy, would it sting if he resurrected his career elsewhere.
Carmona’s a trickier case. The Indians have some depth in the rotation, but they also had to give two of their top starting pitching prospects — Drew Pomeranz and Alex White — to the Rockies for Ubaldo Jimenez. Cleveland probably could find a capable replacement on the free-agent market for perhaps half the price of Carmona’s option; that somebody, of course, would be inferior to Carmona at his best, but a slight upgrade over Carmona at his worst.
There’s also the possibility that the Indians could opt to exercise Carmona’s option, then try to trade him to a pitching-starved ballclub this winter. Who knows, maybe he’ll be Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan’s next great restoration project. A trade of Sizemore probably is less likely, though not impossible; the Athletics, who could lose their entire starting outfield to free-agency, would seem to make sense.
With Sizemore and/or Carmona, the Indians also could decline the option and try to sign either at a reduced rate, like the Tigers did with shortstop Jhonny Peralta last offseason. Peralta had a $7 million club option for 2011; Detroit declined and signed him to a two-year, $11.25 million contract. Not every ballplayer is willing to make concessions like that, though.
Whatever the Indians decide — and there are few indications which way they’re leaning — we’ll know soon enough. And it should be interesting.
The clock is about to start ticking.