GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Had outfielder Grady Sizemore not signed a long-term contract four years ago at this time, he would be entering his final season with the Indians before venturing out into the tempting waters of free agency next winter. To read the number of reports speculating about Sizemore's trade potential, one would think he hadn't signed that extension and was, in fact, nearing free agency. It's just not so.
Sizemore is under the Tribe's contractual control through the 2012 season, and for a variety of reasons, the Indians find it difficult to imagine a scenario in which they'd be compelled to deal him to another club in either of the next two years. "We feel very fortunate that Grady continues to be a member of the organization," said assistant general manager Chris Antonetti, who will become the club's GM at season's end. "We very much value all the contributions of what he does for our team, on and off the field. We're thrilled he's here and under contract for at least three more years." Clearly, Sizemore's future with the Tribe beyond 2012 is in doubt, as the club's recent history of signing its star players to their second long-term deal speaks for itself. It's certainly not out of the realm of possibility that the Indians would deal him in the middle of the '12 season if they are out of contention, but it's far too early to tell what the scenario, in terms of the club's competitiveness and the economics of the city and the sport, will be at that time. Still, the Tribe established a new precedent last year when it traded both Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez a year and a half before they were eligible for free agency, and that's where all the Sizemore speculation is derived from. Once those Lee and Martinez deals were done, it became easy for the skeptics to point to Sizemore and predict, "He's next." Sizemore is, of course, not oblivious to those predictions. But for now, he professes positive hopes for a long-term outlook with the Indians. "I hope there is a long-term future here," he said. "I've always enjoyed being an Indian, and I hope to spend my career here." While it might be a stretch to assume Sizemore will spend the rest of his career in Cleveland, it's no stretch to assume the Indians won't trade him prior to his walk year. Because Sizemore's contractual situation differs from that of Lee and Martinez in a significant way. After Sizemore earns $5.6 million this season and $7.5 million in 2011, the Indians hold a club option on him for 2012. The option's value was originally $8.5 million. His 2008 All-Star selection increased its value to $9 million, and the value can still ascend as high as $10.5 million. If the first four seasons of Sizemore's career -- the ones that came before injuries set his performance back significantly in '09 -- are any indication, that option, even at its max value, would be a steal of a deal for the Indians.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.