Grady Sizemore now a free agent

Cleveland Indians Grady Sizemore connects for an RBI double against the Toronto Blue Jays during the second inning of their American League MLB baseball game in Toronto, May 31, 2011. REUTERS/Mark Blinch (CANADA – Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

The Cleveland Indians announced today that they have decline to pick up the $9 million option on Grady Sizemore for the 2012 season. The Tribe was hoping to negotiate an incentive-laden deal for the often injured Sizemore, but that didn’t happen so they let him go.

Sizemore was a rising star and an excellent all-around player before he injured his knee. In 2008, Sizemore clubbed 33 home runs and stole 38 bases. But in the last three seasons, he’s only played in 210 games with 28 home runs and 17 steals. This year he didn’t steal a single base, and with all the injuries nobody knows if he can return to his previous form.

The Indians couldn’t afford to take that chance. They desperately need to add some reliable bats to go with their solid pitching staff and Sizemore was too big a risk, particularly since they are stuck with the brittle Travis Hafner for one more season at $13 million.

Sizemore will get plenty of interests from other teams, and the upside is there if he can stay healthy. The big-money teams can more easily absorb the risk.

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Dodgers interested in Dunn and Abreu, Manny still first choice

The Los Angeles Dodgers are reportedly interested in free agents Adam Dunn and Bobby Abreu, although Manny Ramirez remains their top priority.

Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times talked to Dodgers GM Ned Colletti, who said Manny Ramirez is the team’s first choice. Colletti hasn’t heard from Manny’s agent Scott Boras since Mark Teixeira signed a week ago. As reported yesterday, the Dodgers have interest in Adam Dunn and Bobby Abreu as backup plans. Pat Burrell and Garret Anderson are not on the team’s radar.

At this point, I think it would be wise for Boras to sit down with Colletti and figure out a reasonable contract. The biggest spenders – Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, Mets – aren’t interested and I doubt Manny’s going to find a better deal than the one the Dodgers are offering him.

Go be an icon in L.A., Manny.

Blogging the Bloggers: Saturday

Randy JohnsonDid the San Francisco Giants sign Randy Johnson just to sell tickets? (SPORTSbyBROOKS)

– The Love of Sports gives us the best images of the 2008 College Football Season. (The Love of Sports)

– With the re-signing of Andy Pettitte in doubt, are the New York Yankees ready to give Phil Hughes a full-time spot in the rotation? (Sliding Into Home)

– MMA fighter Justin Eilers was tragically shot dead in “domestic disturbance” on Christmas. (Deadspin)

– Here’s a look at the top 15 remaining free agents in baseball. (Eli’s MLB Rumors)

Yankees target CC Sabathia, Manny Ramirez and Mark Teixeira

Jon Heyman of SI.com reports that the New York Yankees have made ace CC Sabathia their top winter target. And just for good measure, they’ll also have Manny Ramirez and Mark Teixeira on their radar this offseason, too.

CC SabathiaThe incumbent Brewers extended to Sabathia a very respectable offer for about $100 million, and at least the Dodgers and Angels may also heavily compete for the Vallejo, Calif., native. But baseball people at the general manager meetings here see the Yankees as attempting to blow away the field for Sabathia. Santana’s record deal for a pitcher is over six years.

Boosted by the new Yankee Stadium, revenues that are expected to skyrocket even in a flagging economy, the potential of about $80 million in player payroll coming off their books and driven by their first non-playoff season since before the Joe Torre era, the Yankees will also make plays for superstar first baseman Mark Teixeira and outfielder and hitting savant Manny Ramirez, a longtime Yankee killer (and in 2008 a Red Sox killer, as well), and haven’t ruled out signing one of those two sluggers along with Sabathia.

If you hated the Yankees before, you’ll hate him even more this offseason. Not that it matters because it’s the Yankees and they can finically do whatever they want, but a word of warning to the Steinbrenner’s – watch your spending on top flight free agent pitching. Just to name a few: Barry Zito, Mike Hampton, Russ Ortiz, Kevin Brown, Jason Schmidt – all highly coveted free agent starting pitchers, all gigantic busts.

Now maybe Sabathia is less of a risk considering he’s used to pitching in the AL, but signing him to one of the richest contract in baseball history has trouble written all over it. But again, not that it matters because the Yankees can do whatever they want when it comes to spending.

Top 50 MLB Free Agents

Manny RamirezSI.com released its top 50 MLB free agents. The first team listed is that player’s current team and the second one is SI.com’s “best fit” for that player.

1 CC Sabathia 28 SP Brewers Dodgers
He’s a behemoth, yes, but he proved in ’08 that he might not just be better than Johan Santana, but the most valuable player in baseball. He’ll be rewarded as such, and could turn down Yankee riches to play for a contender in his home state, and to hit every fifth day, which is something he genuinely loves.

2 Mark Teixeira 28 1B Angels Yankees
The guy’s got everything – he’s a young, powerful switch-hitter who plays a Gold Glove first base. Soon he will be able to buy everything, and the Yankees would love to devote a chunk of the revenue from their new ballpark to bring him aboard.

3 Manny Ramirez 36 OF Dodgers Dodgers
He’s like baseball’s version of Catherine Tramell. So enticing, so beautiful to behold, but be careful if you get too close. L.A., of course, is still in the relationship’s first blush, and will probably pay a fortune for a potential ice-picking.

4 Francisco Rodriguez 27 RP Angels Angels
Single-season saves record overshadowed fact that he’s lost velocity on his fastball, doesn’t go more than one inning and was perhaps only the AL’s fifth best closer (after Rivera, Papelbon, Nathan and Soria). Many consider the Mets to be the frontrunner for his services, but they’re on the hook for Billy Wagner’s $10.5 million salary in ’09 and would be wise to pursue a cheaper option.

5 A.J. Burnett 31 SP Blue Jays Yankees
Brittle in the past but threw a career-high 221.1 innings in ’08, which was (guess what?) his contract year. His 231 strikeouts led the American League, and his filthy stuff will have G.M.s salivating — particularly those that lose out in the CC Sabathia sweepstakes.

It’s incredibly ironic that no team would touch Burnett with a 600-foot pole around the All-Star break and now he’s one of the most coveted free agents on the market. The Blue Jays couldn’t have given Burnett away at midseason for a coloring book and a box of crayons.

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