Jayson Stark reported Thursday that the Phillies are kicking the tires on Grady Sizemore. The team also has interest in former Twins outfielder Jason Kubel. The news came on the heels of the Ryan Madson–Jonathan Papelbon hoopla and the Phillies’ meeting with another former Twins player, Michael Cuddyer.
The list of Philadelphia’s targets changes daily, but Kubel and Sizemore pique interest for various reasons. Sizemore is notable from a risk-versus-reward standpoint, since the Phillies’ current left fielder is John Mayberry — who works better as the right-handed half of a platoon; the team has clearly stated it prefers that Dom Brown remains in Triple A for the season. Kubel will be an interesting case study in terms of how teams value his breakout/outlying 2009 performance. Will he get paid handsomely, despite consecutive mediocre seasons?
Obviously, both players are risky for different reasons.
Sizemore, though, represents a good risk, since the potential reward is substantial. With Kubel, the likeliest scenario has a team paying $6 million to $7 million per year for a .335 wOBA, poor defense and below-average base-running.
In both cases, a heck of a lot has to work out to justify a team’s investment.
The Indians probably thought Sizemore’s medical outlook is bleak, and that he hadn’t done enough in 2011 to eliminate questions about his future. That’s perfectly reasonable. Paying Sizemore $8 million would have required an insurance policy in the form of another outfielder. Committing $10 million or more to that position wasn’t desirable, given the team’s budget.
The Phillies are in a different financial position. Philadelphia could afford to give Sizemore an incentive-laden deal with the hope that he rebounds.
In the process, Sizemore would form an effective platoon with Mayberry. If things didn’t work out — injuries being the likeliest cause — that probably means playing-time incentives weren’t met. The investment risk then would be mitigated. But the Phils would need to do more to make a Sizemore signing beneficial. Signing him to an incentive-laden, one-year deal — with a second-year team option — would be worthwhile. That way, if he rebounds, he isn’t overly expensive the following year, and he’d be back for a second season.
But Sizemore might not want to sign that type of contract — and he might find a lengthier, guaranteed offer elsewhere. Still, the Phillies should pursue him, especially since Cuddyer, whom they are interested in, would be relegated to a corner-outfield spot next year. Better to offer Sizemore — who has infinitely more upside — an incentive-laden deal than to guarantee Cuddyer more money over a longer period to play the same position.
Kubel carries less injury risk — even though he missed significant time in 2011 — but has less upside. He also isn’t worth the deal he’ll eventually sign. From 2007 to 2011, he posted one great year at the plate, two decent years and two average years. That’s just on the offensive side — and Kubel is below-average defensively. But perhaps the Phillies are anchored to his 2009 performance and view him as the one-great-year guy. It wouldn’t be surprising if they, and other teams, see him that way.
Kubel really isn’t worth all that much. If he were willing to sign for something around two years and $10 million, then he might be worth the performance risk; but three years and $21 million — which might seem reasonable for a power bat — wouldn’t really fly. The Phillies have Mayberry and Domonic Brown knocking on the door. Committing three or more years to a corner outfielder with an already crowded outfield doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Sizemore could probably be had on a smaller deal, both in money and in length of time. Kubel might be similarly available, but he isn’t as talented and he represents bad risk for the team.
Ultimately, signing Sizemore could help the Phillies. He’s worth the risk, barring a major medical malady that might turn up in a physical. Kubel, on the other hand, only looks good relative to Cuddyer, who looks worse given their likely contracts. And that should never serve as the justification for making a move.