Boiled down to their core, each signing by a professional sports team is orchestrated under the thinking that the player being inked to a contract has the potential to help the club win more games. But individually, each free agent signing has its own separate identity.
There are the huge splash signings where teams acquire the services of superstar players that give birth to national headlines and myriad opinions on what the big signing will mean for the franchise long-term; signing a player to a huge control also invites scrutiny on a microscopic level as the sports world plays accountant to make sure that the player actually lives up to the contract.
Then there are the calculated risks where a team signs a player on whose fortunes their season most likely will not rest, but from whom the team expects to receive a significant level of value. While the player's name and the average annual value of the contract might not attract the same level of attention as one of the splash signings, without a collection of calculated risk signings that end up yielding a high degree of value, it is rare for a team to be successful.
Furthermore, there are the "just in case" signings where a team will bestow a relatively small amount of money on a player from whom realistically the team does not expect much; the franchise is certainly not pinning any future wins on the shoulders of such a player who is usually in the latter stages of his career or coming off a disastrous season or trying to regain his form after significant injuries.
Hopefully, the franchise says, this signing will turn out to be surprisingly beneficial for the club as the player exceeds our low expectations and actually becomes a positive contributor. And if he does not, well, the organization never really expected him to anyway.
The Boston Red Sox signing of Grady Sizemore to a one-year, $750,000 contract, whose value could increase to $6 million if he meets incentives, is representative of the latter category. As the incentive-laden contract with a minimum guaranteed amount of money suggests, the Boston Red Sox do not really think Sizemore will be a star for the team in 2014, and they have good reason for those doubts.
Sizemore has missed the last two seasons after surgery on his back and right knee, and even when we last saw him in 2011, he was not really Grady Sizemore, at least not the Grady Sizemore we witnessed from 2005-08 where he was a force at the plate. During those four seasons, Sizemore posted well-above average wOBAs of .359, .383, .373, and .376 while also playing exceptional defense from his center field position.
Based on those four seasons, which comprised Sizemore's 22-25 age seasons, it was easy to envision him entrenching himself as one of the top center fielders in the major leagues. Unfortunately, after having such a fantastic four-year run while he also averaged around 160 games played, Sizemore's body began betraying him in 2009 when he went on the disabled list for the first of what would become seven times, and the betrayal has yet to end, robbing him of all the talent he possessed early on in his career.
Since the 2008 season ended, Sizemore has been a shell of himself at the plate and in the field, not even coming close to matching the standards he set during his first four full seasons in the majors.
With so much time having passed since Sizemore was at his best, and healthiest, the Red Sox surely realize how unlikely it is that Sizemore plays much above replacement level in 2014 if he is able to play at all. Then again, they can still hope to be surprised, and $750,000 for an organization that is worth hundreds of millions is a small price to pay for hope.