The Yankees made a big free agency splash this week, and it wasn’t to bring back star 2B Robinson Cano. The Yankees reportedly signed CF Jacoby Ellsbury to a 7 year, $153 million deal. While on the surface it seems like the Yankees win this move, by gaining a star CF while stealing the Red Sox’s most valuable free agent, Looking closely tells us another story.
While Ellsbury has been good in his time in Boston, he hasn’t been the superstar the Yankees are expecting him to be, or better yet, paying him to be. Ellsbury is coming off a year in which he hit .298, had an OBP or .355 and slugged .426 while hitting 9 home runs and driving in 53 RBI, and stealing 52 bases. All while playing very solid defense in a park that’s difficult for many players to field in, in Fenway Park. Seems like a player you’d want, right?
Well, yeah, but not in the capacity the Yankees want. In the past 4 seasons, Jacoby Ellsbury has missed 264 games. Nearly 2 out of 4 seasons, lost. Ellsbury has reached the point where he has been red flagged as injury prone in the baseball community. Ellsbury just turned 30 in September. Meaning Ellsbury’s body has become injury prone in his 20, the time when he’s supposed to hit peak performance. Now he’s 30 coming off another season in which he was hurt. Granted, he only missed 28 games, a relatively healthy year for him.
But the Yankees are giving 7 YEARS? To a guy who’s now turning 30? At the back-end of the prime of his career? If Ellsbury’s body has suffered this much damage in his 20s, how much more can his body withstand? Not 7 years, or at least 7 fully healthy productive years that the Yankees are paying for. Plus, they gave him $153 million dollars. Presumably, instead of the neighborhood of $200 million for Cano over 10 years.
The Yankees reportedly would only offer Cano 7 years at $180 million. While I wouldn’t give Cano 10 years at $200 million+ he wanted, I’d rather pay the extra 3 years and $80 million or so to take Cano from Seattle. Cano’s 31 and 10 year deals to guys on the downside of their career never work, but getting 7 really good years out of Cano, who never misses a game, plays at a premium position, providing stellar defense and hitting, and wins the head to head matchup at 2B every single game you play, is worth way more than the $27M difference in pay the Yankees would give Ellsbury over Cano.
All the while, the Yankees had Brett Gardner slated to play CF. He is coming off a year in which he hit .273, had an OBP of .344 and slugged .416, while hitting 8 home runs and driving in 52 RBI while stealing 24 bases. Sound familiar? Well those numbers are pretty comparable to Ellsbury, and they come from a guy who’s played over 145 games 3 out of the past 4 seasons. Now, the Yankees have a crowded middling outfield with immovable expensive pieces such as Vernon Wells and Ichiro, who now don’t even have pronounced roles on the team.
I know it’s all early speculation, and we can’t predict Ellsbury getting hurt again and not living up to his deal, but after taking a hard look at the deal, I can’t be happy as a Yankees fan at the end of the day.