Posts Tagged ‘Jacoby Ellsbury’

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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.

GRADE: C

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I come to you as an increasingly disappointed Yankees fan.

For years, the New York Yankees have been a standard of excellence. They have had a team of selfless, team-first players, who would do anything to win the game. It was built from the ground up, and even after a good chunk of the cast left after 2001, they still kept succeeding. Even in the mid 2000’s, where they spent wildly on unnecessary free agents, they won division after division. In 2009, their spending spree worked, as they compiled yet another near complete team, and won their 27th world title. The majority of the group stayed together for the next couple of years, though it met with natural decline due to age and injury.

And then, it all started to fall apart in Game 1 of the 2012 ALCS.

Derek Jeter, one of 3 Yankees left from the golden years, was running to his left to make a play, dove, and broke his ankle. Yankee fans collectively held their breath while he was helped off the field, something that never happens. Jeter was the beacon of light for the Yankees, always being there to keep the team somewhat even keel, and most of all, win games.

He didn’t play much the entire 2013 season. In fact, that 2013 season had many injuries that caused problems. Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez (plus the Biogenesis scandal that emerged the previous January), his replacement Kevin Youkilis, all spent the majority of the season either injured, or had their abilities hampered by those injuries when they finally found the field.

The pitching staff had it’s own problems. CC Sabathia, their ace and stalwart, looked nothing like an ace, bothered by occasional injury and a decline in his pitching. Phil Hughes couldn’t keep the ball in the park. Hiroki Kuroda hit a decline toward the end of the year. The fifth rotation spot became a rotation, true to it’s name.

Many of the players they signed to patch up some of those injuries didn’t quite help things along either. Vernon Wells started hot and hit a wall. Travis Hafner showed some life, then disappeared. Lyle Overbay found himself in the outfield for the first time in his career. The catcher position was manned by a few guys armed with toothpicks. Jayson Nix played everywhere, but couldn’t handle the bat most nights. They signed Mark Reynolds, which helped them in the occasional home run and rally kill. Alfonso Soriano did play some great ball, but was overshadowed by failure all around him.

The only player to have 100+ RBI as a Yankee, hit .300, play in 150+ games, hit 20 home runs, or get 150 hits, was Robinson Cano. He was set for free agency at the end of the season.

Now here is where I got really mad. The Yankees made it clear that they had 2 major priorities this off-season. Resign Cano, and keep the payroll under $189M, to avoid luxury tax. Another smaller task was to bring in players who can help in weaker positions.

Negotiations went relatively slow between the Yankees and Cano, with Cano wanting 10 years and upwards of $225M, and the Yankees saying that the best they can do is 8 years for $175M, channeling their inner Pawn Star. The Seattle Mariners swoop in and snag him for 10 years and $240M, and Cano didn’t think twice.

And if I’m Cano, I would do that over and over again with no regret.

During those negotiations, the Yankees signed former Boston outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury to 7 years and $153M, thus starting to crowd the outfield. Doing the math, that’s similar average annual value that they offered to Cano, the premium player in a premium position. Pile on top of that, that Cano didn’t like how manager Joe Girardi was using him. The Mariners offered him the contract he wanted. Game, set, match.

After that, the Yankees further overstuffed the outfield with Carlos Beltran, bringing them to 6 outfielders, albeit 4 worth playing time. While that is happening, their rotation is in shambles, with CC, Hiroki Kuroda, and Ivan Nova as normal starters, and no one in sight who can step up with any certainty to take the 4 or 5 spots. Their bullpen is even more a wreck, with the only recognizable pitcher being new closer David Robertson. Their remaining infielders include 2 players on their way back from injury in Jeter and Teixeira, neither with any certainty on returning to form, Alex Rodriguez, who we still don’t know how many games he’ll be allowed to play, or how productive he would be in those games, Kelly Johnson, jack of all trades, and Brendan Ryan, who can’t handle a bat.

None of that actually bothers me much anymore, I’ve kinda gotten used to it.

What bothers me is that the way that the Yankees build their team. Think of it as a car, metaphorically. You drive your car, and it eventually gets worn down, the body gets banged up, and the engine stops functioning properly. What people should think first to do, is fix the engine, considering that the car can drive, even if the body is a little beat up. But a car with a pristine body and an dysfunctional engine won’t get you anywhere.

The Yankees are fixing their body first. The major league roster, or at least the big names, are the metaphoric body. It’s important to have a good bunch of big name guys, just as it’s important to have a good body of a car. But it’s even more important to have a functional engine, which compares to role players and young up-and-comers. The Yankees have never truly been about team building, just polishing the look of the team, to make it seem like they are doing the right thing. Their metaphoric car may look great and muscular, but it wouldn’t beat a souped up sedan in a drag race.

It’s been like that for a while in the Bronx, but it’s gotten significantly worse this year, as they move further away from true rebuilding, and further the patch job that free agency offers. They won’t go anywhere until they get some decent young guys who they can build a team around, just like the Core 4 back in the old days, the only group of 4 teammates to have played together for 15+ years, of Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, and Jorge Posada. The Yankees were tremendously successful building around those guys in their early careers. I think it’s time to find a new core bunch who will help them do something similar, as hard as it is, and ditch the dependence on free agents, who are just rejects from their old teams.

Until then, I will be sitting at home trying to find some real baseball teams to watch.

Gary & Avi go through the top free agents on the market and predict their new homes.

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One of the weirdest calls to end a baseball game occurred last night. After getting the lead runner at home, Red Sox C Jarrod Saltalamachia threw the ball to third in an attempt to get Allen Craig (who was running from second to third) out. The ball went into left field, but LF Daniel Nava threw the ball back in and Saltalamacchia got the tag on Craig. Here is where things get weird. Craig, who was clearly out, was called safe at home. After initial confusion, Craig was called safe due to interference. What had happened was, when Craig was running home, he tripped over Sox 3B Will Middelbrooks legs. The rule in the MLB is, in short, if a player is interfered with on the base path, whether intentional or not, the runner is awarded a free base. Thus, Craig is allowed to come home and score, effectively ending the game. This call warranted a lot of controversy, but it was ultimately the right call.

Moving forward, the Red Sox cannot dwell on this loss. They need to win tonight or this series could very well be over. Here are two keys for the Red Sox if they want to win this game.

Key #1- Wake the bats up. The Red Sox continue to have a damn near non-existent offseason. Ignoring game one, Boston is hitting under .200 in the past two series. To make matters worse, Mike Napoli is on the bench due to no DH and Shane Victorino is a late scratch due to back tightness. In addition to these, David Ross will be starting at catcher for defensive purposes. Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, and the rest of the crew will need to seriously pick up their game if they hope to pull this one out.

Key #2- Avoid stupid plays. Despite however you feel about the interference call, Saltalamacchia should not have made that throw. Craig was likely going to be safe anyways, and there was no reason to throw the ball to third. This isn’t the first time the Sox were haunted by a bad throw. In game 2, Craig Breslow threw the ball over to third in another failed attempt to get a runner who would likely have been safe. The ball sailed into left field, letting the winning run score, and the rest was history. Boston needs to know when to just hold the ball or risk ending the series in St. Louis.