Outfield dilemma: Could Sizemore stay with Phillies?

"I feel like as the year has gone on, I've gotten stronger," outfielder Grady Sizemore says. "He's quality," says Ryne Sandberg. "He does a nice job. Impressive." YONG KIM / Staff
"I feel like as the year has gone on, I've gotten stronger," outfielder Grady Sizemore says. "He's quality," says Ryne Sandberg. "He does a nice job. Impressive." YONG KIM / Staff
Posted: September 06, 2014

ATLANTA - Grady Sizemore has a great story to tell. He yanked on his white polo shirt Wednesday afternoon, a day in which he crushed one homer, missed another by mere feet, and executed a frenetic diving catch in foul territory. He talked like a man not burdened by seven surgeries in four years but as someone who can expect certain things again.

"I feel like as the year has gone on, I've gotten stronger," said Sizemore, 32. "So hopefully I can just finish strong, stay healthy, and build off of this."

Sizemore is difficult to ignore with his .840 OPS, even though he has started just eight of a possible 21 games since Aug. 9. He is on the wrong side of 30 with a productive sample size large enough to raise eyebrows but small enough to engender skepticism.

He is, in some ways, the epitome of the Phillies outfield conundrum. Ryne Sandberg has rotated five outfielders - Marlon Byrd being the only constant, guaranteed presence - and the team is no closer to finding the right combination for 2015.

There are no outfield prospects who can compete for a starting job next spring. The free-agent outfield market is sparse. That will increase the trade demand for a competent outfielder made available by another team.

Those conditions make Sizemore an interesting person this month.

"He's quality," Sandberg said. "He does a nice job. Impressive."

Sizemore has 14 extra-base hits since joining the Phillies on July 11. The only Phillies player with more during that span is Jimmy Rollins, who has 16 extra-base hits in 71 more plate appearances than Sizemore.

The Phillies will look to trade Domonic Brown this winter for a similar change-of-scenery-type player. Ben Revere, the National League's leader in batting average, has a center-field offensive skill set with the defensive skills of a leftfielder. Darin Ruf, who Ruben Amaro Jr. said last September cannot be an everyday outfielder, has hit in limited chances. Cody Asche, the team's third baseman, could move to left field.

This winter's outfield market is lacking value. There is Nelson Cruz, who is really a designated hitter and nearing a huge payday at age 34. Michael Morse, not known for his glove or health, has good numbers for San Francisco. Melky Cabrera erased the stain of 2013 with a solid 2014 and just turned 30.

Denard Span turned his season around, but the Nationals have a $9 million club option they could exercise. Toronto thinks so highly of Colby Rasmus that the Blue Jays just benched their 28-year-old centerfielder. Baltimore's Nick Markakis is a decent player who made $15 million in each of the last two seasons.

And there is 23-year-old Yasmani Tomas, a Cuban import who has not been cleared yet to sign with an American team. Tomas, a power-hitting corner outfielder, could fetch $100 million, given Boston's recent $72 million agreement with Rusney Castillo, who turns 27 this week.

Then again, the Phillies could flip Byrd to a contender and reboot the entire outfield if they embrace a rebuilding process.

"What we have on our roster right now isn't working," Amaro said. "How much we do depends on what makes sense for us. We're still assessing what we have, but I think it behooves us to look to make changes because we need to be better."

Change sounds great; Amaro said what he said because it is what fans want to hear. But the Phillies have some immovable parts and few minor-league players ready to assume large responsibilities. Change is hard.

"We have a lot of decisions to make," Amaro said. "I think it's a good thing. Change is going to be good in certain ways. Consistency is important too. I think we have a lot to assess, but we have a pretty good idea where we want to go."

That could include Sizemore, whose story started with a minor-league deal. He has done nothing to hurt his chances.

"I'm just trying to make the most of the opportunities I get," Sizemore said. "We have a lot of guys here playing well. So opportunities are limited."


@mattgelb inquirer.com/phillieszone

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