Cleveland locks up another youngster in Sizemore

Updated: March 29, 2006, 5:43 PM ET
Associated Press

CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Indians locked up their center field position into the next decade, agreeing Wednesday to a $23.45 million, six-year contract with Grady Sizemore.

Center Field
Cleveland Indians

Profile
2005 SEASON STATISTICS
GM HR RBI R OBP AVG
158 22 81 111 .348 .289

Sizemore's deal has the most guaranteed money for a player with less than two years of major-league service, $200,000 more than the Boston Red Sox guaranteed shortstop Nomar Garciaparra in a five-year deal agreed to in March 1998.

"I didn't expect it to happen this fast," Sizemore said. "Last year, I was just trying to make the team."

Sizemore's hustle and humility have made him a favorite with teammates and fans. The Indians' female fan base has taken a particular liking to him -- the team sold 200 "Mrs. Sizemore" T-shirts on the first day they were made available at Jacobs Field.

His new status as a millionaire shouldn't hurt his popularity. Sizemore gets a $1 million signing bonus and salaries of $500,000 this year, $750,000 in 2007, $3 million in 2008, $4.6 million in 2009, $5.6 million in 1010 and $7.5 million in 2011.

The agreement includes an $8.5 million club option for 2012 with a $500,000 buyout. If the option is exercised, the deal would total $31.45 million over seven seasons, and the option price could increase to $10.5 million depending on whether Sizemore is an All-Star, Gold Glove or Silver Slugger or does well in MVP voting.

If traded, the option becomes Sizemore's decision and the buyout is forfeited if he declines the option. He would alsod get a $500,000 payment if traded, and the salaries in the remaining years of the contract would increase by 10 percent.

"I'm still going to play the game the same way," Sizemore said. "I want to be here for a long time."

Sizemore has played only one full season in the majors, but the 23-year-old outfielder did enough to impress the Indians.

"He plays the game hard. He respects the game. He's a good teammate, and he's pretty good as well," team president Paul Dolan said.

Sizemore batted .289 with 22 homers and 81 RBI in 158 games last season. He also scored 111 runs, had 22 steals and became the second Indians player to record 20 doubles, 10 triples, 20 homers and 20 steals in the same season. He was the only player in the majors to reach those numbers last season.

"We are committed to building and sustaining a championship team and Grady -- as one of the most talented young players in the game today -- is the kind of player and person that can help lead us to that goal," general manager Mark Shapiro said.

The length of contract mirrors that of deals the Indians gave to shortstop Jhonny Peralta (five years, $13 million) and catcher Victor Martinez ($15.5 million for five years).

"The unprecedented length and financial guarantee of this contract clearly illustrates the Indians' sincere belief in Grady as a player and person," said Sizemore's agent, Joe Urbon.

The Indians are also trying to sign Cliff Lee, who went 18-5 last season, to a long-term deal. Cleveland also has designated hitter Travis Hafner and left-hander C.C. Sabathia under contract through 2007 with club options for 2008.

"We have a championship-caliber core in place," Dolan said.

Cleveland acquired Sizemore in 2002 from Montreal in the deal that sent ace Bartolo Colon to the Expos.

Television ratings studies by the team indicated that female viewership of Indians games increased 200 percent in 2005.

Sizemore's contract is the longest agreed to by the Indians since shortstop Omar Vizquel's six-year deal in 1995.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press