Friday, May 27, 2011
Shipping out the other Sizemore
By Christina Kahrl
Those words make you pause, especially as the Sizemore you think of first -- Grady -- is coming off the DL. But this wasn't Grady Sizemore, or Ted if you remember your bat-control fiends of the '70s, or Tom if you're following the travails of a has-been actor. No, this was "just" Scott Sizemore that the Detroit Tigers dealt to the Oakland Athletics for lefty David Purcey, an odd sort of exchange that represents a torte of disappointments for both ballclubs.
Scott Sizemore is hitting .222 with 19 strikeouts and 10 walks in 63 plate appearances this season.
Take the Tigers' side of the exchange. Heading into the 2010 season, Sizemore was seen as the organization's instant fix at second base, but that notion didn't make it to Memorial Day last year, as the 25-year-old rookie failed to last all that far beyond his first hundred at-bats. He was pressing, and rather than ride it out, the Tigers decided to prove (again) that Carlos Guillen couldn't stay healthy manning any position, then got briefly carried away with Will Rhymes' well-timed streak. This season, they've already run through Rhymes, Sizemore, and now, with this deal, they're lurching toward some sort of ramshackle arrangement between utility infielders Ramon Santiago and Danny Worth, or maybe Ryan Raburn.
To say that the Tigers haven't figured out what to do at second base would be an understatement, but this is a team with issues all through their lineup thanks to many bad commitments. Predictably enough, Brandon Inge isn't hitting, and Magglio Ordonez looks done, and Brennan Boesch still hasn't rediscovered his power stroke, andAustin Jackson's remarkably high .396 BABIP from 2010 has proven impossible to sustain. The Tigers can't punish the lot of them, so shaking things up again at second base -- where the financial commitments are negligible and the quality of the players are almost interchangeable -- makes for a place to act out while the Tigers look to goose themselves beyond second place and a record beyond .500.
They do add a hardish-throwing lefty in Purcey, who has hopskotched from the Toronto Blue Jays to Oakland to the Motor City inside of two months. He might be a useful alternative in a pen that so far really only has Daniel Schlereth to provide reliable left-handed relief help. Schlereth is already being used in a situational role, and Purcey is probably slotted to replace the injured Brad Thomas in middle relief. On some level, this reflects another source of frustration as Fu-Te Ni's role as a situational relief hero waned last season. There's potentially an additional developmental payoff. This might mean they can return top prospect Charlie Furbush to the Mudhens' rotation in Toledo instead of leaving him in the back end of Jim Leyland's bullpen. But with Phil Coke on the DL and prospect Andrew Oliver starting in Coke's place on Saturday, the Tigers can't be too sure of their rotation.
For the A's, there's probably some faith in Sizemore's minor league performance after he hit .313/.395/.511 in more than a thousand plate appearances between Double- and Triple-A. Mark Ellis is struggling badly in his walk year, and the A's might prefer to plug in Sizemore instead of starting prospect Jemile Weeks' service-time clock, even as Weeks seems to be making short work of Triple-A pitching this spring (.322/.412/.454 for Sacramento). Even then, Sizemore might not distinguish himself from other fill-in aspirants beyond Weeks, because the River Cats also have Eric Sogard (career .394 minor-league OBP), Steve Tolleson (.375) and Adrian Cardenas (.370), all of whom have some experience at second base. Weeks and Tolleson are the two who aren't on the 40-man roster, but that might seem like a lot of redundancy to insure a team against Ellis' slump.
Second isn't the only problem position in the infield, because at third base the A's have two more graying OPEPs -- Other People's Ex-Prospects -- where Kevin Kouzmanoff and Andy LaRoche have combined to hit .202/.262/.307. Here again, Sizemore, Tolleson, Cardenas and Sogard all have some experience at third base. If the A's decide to mimic the Tigers and shake things up at second or third, it isn't like the starters haven't given them cause.