First off, to be clear, Jacoby Ellsbury is a very good baseball player. Helped the Sox win 2 World Series. When healthy, adds a lot to the top of the lineup and a baseball team overall. But of course, health is a big “if” and one of the major reasons why it’s probably a mistake to give him a 7 year, 153 million dollar contract (with an option for an 8th year for 16 mil, by the by). I know, I know, the Sox and Yanks have tons of money, there is a boatload of money coming into MLB, etc., etc. But if I’m the General Manager of a baseball team (not likely to ever happen of course, but please bear with me), no way I am giving a guy like this that kind of dough.
We already mentioned the injury factor. Missed almost a full season in 2010. Severely hampered in 2012. Even missed significant time in September 2013 (and I am sorry, likely would have missed more if he wasn’t playing for a contract, but that is only my opinion). Gets banged up fairly easily.
Other factors against a signing? Now 30 years old, his speed is obviously likely to decline with age. He has little power (more on this later). He is a leadoff hitter, not a big bat in the middle of the order. He can’t throw…but we knew that already. Just doesn’t seem to have all the tools that a player usually has to command almost 22 mil per.
Just seems like a similar deal given a short time ago to…Carl Crawford. And the argument can be made that Crawford was a better player in his 20’s than Jacoby was. Though admittedly with a huge asterisk in that Crawford clearly cannot handle a big market and Ellsbury always has been able to. I don’t have any doubt that Ellsbury can handle NY. Though if the team asks him to be more of a vocal leader and maybe interact with the fans more and do that kind of stuff, I wonder if it will happen. Didn’t seem to in Boston, but I suppose you never know what happens behind the scenes.
On the power issue, I do believe Ellsbury will hit probably 15-20 or so home runs playing in that stadium 81 games a year. But I doubt we will see 32 again. He will probably be a great signing for maybe 2-3 years. But 7 or 8? Doubtful. I get it to some degree. The Yanks have the money. They just basically gave 100 mil to McCann too. For a lot of these long term contracts, the team hopes to reap tremendous benefits maybe for three quarters of the deal and they’ll just have to eat the last quarter if necessary. They needed to make a splash and maybe “stealing” a player from Boston makes them feel like they did. All that kind of stuff.
But then came today’s news that the Yankees lost a cornerstone of their lineup in Robinson Cano. Here’s a guy that has been with the Yanks for 9 years, came up through their system, 5 time All-Star, middle of the order bat, power, etc. Roughly the same age as Ellsbury (ok, Cano could be 35 or 38 with the Dominican birth certificate mysteries, but still…). Would have to say that he is probably a better player than Ellsbury. And the Yanks lowballed him. Now, the 10 years, 310 mil he was originally looking for was completely outrageous. But he ended up getting 24 mil per, while again, Ells got about 22 per. Who would you rather spend the money on? Just not sure of the Yankees logic there. But, as they have been saying since the season ended, they have a plan. And they have also said that they plan to stay under the luxury tax. Ummmmm, not so sure about that last one.
So I question the Yankee side. Because of all of the above, I do not question the Red Sox letting him walk. I will not boo him, because I don’t care that he left. I didn’t boo Johnny Damon either, because despite what the Red Sox spun us back then, they didn’t want him back either. They both helped the Sox win World Series too. Roger Clemens? Yeah, different story entirely. As for on the field implications to the Red Sox in 2014 and beyond, everyone is assuming that Jackie Bradley Jr. is going to step in and at least provide the same defense and up to 75% of his offense. Maybe. I’m not completely sold on him. But I am not completely sold that he is even going to be here next year. I’m not sure Ben Cherington can get a bunch of guys on the same short term discounts he got them at last year. And I don’t believe he is going to spend big. I also believe that while they feel like they have some prospects close to the majors, that’s what they are, close, but not completely ready.
So that basically leaves one other major way to improve the team…by trade. The Sox supposedly have a ton of prospects. Some of these guys will pan out, some will not. But sooner or later, there will need to be room for them on the 40 man roster. This year or next. There are too many of these guys. Just look at the current pitching staff. 13 major league caliber guys for 12 spots: Lester, Buchholz, Lackey, Doubront, Peavy, Dempster, Badenhop, Tazawa, Mujica, Breslow, Miller, Morales, Uehara. This is not even counting Workman, who basically proved he belonged during the last postseason. Or guys “on the cusp” like Webster, Britton, de la Rosa, etc. The only rational conclusion is to deal some of them. You’ve heard the names, Stanton, Kemp, blah, blah, blah. I believe something big will happen this winter, just not sure who or when. If it’s an outfielder, then Bradley will probably be part of the package, you have to assume. And then you’ll have your Ellsbury “superstar” replacement.
We appreciate what you did for the Red Sox Jacoby, but sayonara…all the best to you…