‘Hart of the Order’
By Sean Hartnett
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Once considered to be one of the brightest young players in baseball, Grady Sizemore suffered through three consecutive seasons of ‘injury hell.’  His significant upside is attracting many free agent suitors despite him missing 276 games over that three-year stretch.

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According to ESPN, eight MLB teams have expressed an interest in Sizemore and are examining his medical reports.  Those teams are understood to be the New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers, San Francisco Giants, Colorado Rockies and Sizemore’s previous employers the Cleveland Indians.

Sizemore could turn out to be a perfect fit for the Yankees considering their need for competition in both corner outfield spots.  Brett Gardner’s numbers took a tremendous slide toward the end of 2011.  Gardner was batting .286 with a .366 on-base percentage in mid-August and finished the year with a .259 average as his OBP fell to .345.

Gardner’s statistical drop-off could be attributed to playing a demanding workload of 159 games and his ‘all-out’ style of play.  Having a healthy Sizemore around would allow Joe Girardi to keep Gardner fresher in 2012.

Nick Swisher needs to begin next season strongly after yet another dismal postseason but at least he is a consistent .370 OBP batter.  If Swisher’s playoff struggles seep into 2012, a player of Sizemore’s ability could wrestle away playing time from Swisher in right field.

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Brian Cashman has stated a desire to shift the Yankees roster to one of greater flexibility.  The DH position could be a revolving for spot without a full-time righty or lefty option.  Acquiring Sizemore plays into that philosophy.  It’s all about options for Cashman and the modern Yankees.

With Jorge Posada’s days with the Yankees over, Sizemore could provide capable a left-sided designated hitter.  Sizemore is a career .288 batter against right-handed pitchers with an impressive OBP of .376.  Eric Chavez is mulling over retirement and it’s unclear whether the Yankees would consider bringing back Chavez if he intends to play in 2012.

Jesus Montero and Eduardo Nunez are the only remaining DHs on the Yankees’ roster and they’re both right-handed and unproven.  It wouldn’t surprise me if Montero is dealt if the Yankees feel he isn’t a capable of becoming an adequate-fielding catcher.  The raw Nunez will continue to develop defensively and allow Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter more chances to be given ‘half breaks’ at DH.

Utilizing Sizemore as a role player would give Gardner, Swisher and Curtis Granderson rest when needed and fill the Yankees’ need for a left-sided DH.  In 2011, the Yankees went with a ‘buy-low philosophy’ by signing veteran free agents Chavez and Andruw Jones.  Both players turned out to be successful part-time Yankees and I wouldn’t be against re-signing Jones as a right-sided DH, occasional corner outfielder and key pinch hitter.

Sizemore has a lot to prove regarding his health but is a tantalizing buy-low free agent target.  If his medical reports are encouraging, the Yankees or any of their competitors would benefit greatly by having someone of Sizemore’s class.

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Yankee fans – is Sizemore a risk worth taking?  Share your thoughts and opinions below.  Sean Hartnett will be covering the Yankees’ hot stove all winter long.  Send him your tweets @HartyLFC.