By: T.J. Zuppe
June 27th, 2002 – It was on that day that then Indians general manager Mark Shapiro put his stamp on the organization by trading ace pitcher Bartolo Colon to the desperate Montreal Expos.
Flash forward to October 31st, 2011 – The day the team may have said its final goodbye to the last link to that deal.
Before the Monday deadline set by major league baseball, the Cleveland Indians declined to pick up the 8.5 million dollar option on outfielder Grady Sizemore, electing to buyout the often-injured center fielder for $500,000.
This makes the 29-year old a free agent, eligible to sign with any club he desires. That could also include the Tribe, who could choose to re-sign Sizemore at a discounted rate with incentives.
Sizemore hit .224 in 2011, playing in only 71 games for the Tribe. He hit 10 home runs, while driving in 32 in 295 at bats. He also struck out 85 times and posted the second-lowest OPS of his career at .706.
After being acquired in the Colon trade from the Expos – along with infielders Brandon Phillips, Lee Stevens and pitcher Cliff Lee – Sizemore spent eight seasons with the Indians, hitting .269 in that span.
He is a three-time all-star and two-time gold glove winner in centerfield.
However, the last three years have left him injury plagued, only able to top the 100-game mark once since 2009. The one-time MVP candidate became more of a punchline recently, as he struggled to get on the field consistently.
He is expected to draw moderate interest at a smaller dollar figure per season. His services could peak intrigue from higher payrolled clubs, with more money available to take a gamble on him.
Cleveland is also not ruled out from interest, with a smaller incentive-filled deal making sense to take a flier on, providing a low-risk, high-reward situation.
Meanwhile, the club decided to exercise its seven million dollar option for 2012 on right-handed pitcher Fausto Carmona.
The 27-year old finished 2011 with a record of 7-15, with an earned run average of 5.25. It marked the fourth time in his Indians career his ERA topped five.
However, with recent Tommy John surgery done on right-hander Carlos Carrasco, and question marks surrounding the final two spots in the rotation, the club elected to keep the inning-eating Carmona, who has averaged 172 frames a season since 2007.
The team will keep an eye on other clubs around baseball, with other players being added to the free agent pool following Monday’s deadline.
Recently, designated hitter Jim Thome, pitcher Chad Durbin and outfielder Kosuke Fukudome filed for free agency.
Follow TJ on Twitter @TJZuppe
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