Would Jacoby Ellsbury be a Fit in New York?

Would Jacoby Ellsbury be a Fit in New York?

Boston’s Jasoby Ellsbury is set to become a free agent this offseason after a seven year stint with the Red Sox that can be described as an imperfect marriage. Ellsbury tore through Boston’s minor league system to debut with the 2007 World Champion Red Sox before taking over as the everyday center fielder in 2008. While patrolling center for Boston, Ellsbury displayed incredible speed as he swiped 50 bases while displaying a fair amount of power for a 24-year-old, 6’1, 195 lb rookie. In 2009, things only began to escalate for the speedy fielder as he stole 70 bases and led the American League with 10 triples. There wasn’t a soul in Boston who didn’t believe that Ellsbury wouldn’t be the long term solution at the position. That was before injuries limited him to 18 games in 2010 and 74 in 2012.

Sandwiched between two injury ravaged years was one of the most incredible seasons for a center fielder in recent history (next to Mike Trout’s 2012). Ellsbury’s 2011 saw his power increase exponentially as he blasted 32 home runs (or 12 more than he had hit during his first four seasons), connected forĀ 46 doubles, and slugged an incredible .552. His successful season was overshadowed by Boston’s epic collapse late in the year, but it was still good enough to produce a 9.1 fWAR.

The Boston Red Sox and Jasoby Ellsbury are likely to have an amicable parting this fall as Ellsbury will look for a loaded free agent contract while the club will ready to give the position to prospect sensation Jackie Bradley Jr. The 20-year-old Bradley Jr broke camp with the big league club this year having never played a game above AA-Portland. His initial struggles prompted the club to option him to AAA-Pawtucket where he has seemingly regained his stroke as he has gone 13-43 and is reaching base at a .400 clip. While it’s unlikely the Sox will be trading Ellsbury if they remain in the thick of the pennant race, Bradley should rejoin the club later this year as the club looks to develop him into their future center fielder.

Ellsbury will have a plethora of options this offseason as teams look to secure the top free agent outfielder. Michael Bourn’s four-year, $48M pact with the Cleveland Indians is the most recent deal that would be comparable to a player of Ellsbury’s caliber. While Bourn doesn’t carry the same name value as Ellsbury, he had just come off of a career year with the Atlanta Braves in which he provided the club with a 6.0 WAR season. Much like Bourn, Ellsbury’s speed is his biggest asset, but unlike Bourn, Ellsbury has a lot more power potential. It’s reasonable to believe that Ellsbury’s contract would be more similar to that of B.J Upton’s five-year, $75M deal with the Atlanta Braves, but only if he can remain healthy this season. It’s hard to envision a scenario in which Ellsbury will receive a deal greater than five years with an average annual value of between $15-17M.

The New York Mets were tasked with losing their first round draft pick this season if they chose to sign Michael Bourn to help bolster their outfield and give them a leadoff man. While Bourn ultimately signed with the Cleveland, the Mets’ need for major league outfielders remains at an all time high. The team has played nine different men (Baxter, Brown, Byrd, Cowgill, Duda, Lagares, Nieuwenhuis, Turner, and Valdespin) in the outfield in hopes of trying to find one who can consistently contribute. Only Duda has shown the ability to reach base at a high enough level to warrant him as an everyday outfielder with this year’s club. Baxter has begun to earn himself more playing time as he has the tendency to have long plate appearances and a high OBP as well, but there isn’t much to speak of beyond those two.

The Mets could be in a position to add between $25-40M to their payroll this offseason as their payroll shrinks from ~$90M in 2013 to ~$50M in 2013 after arbitration raises are taken into account. With an above-average pitching staff and tremendous organization depth, the concerns will turn to creating a major league outfield that can compliment the offensive core of d’Arnaud, Duda, Murphy, and Wright. Ellsbury would be a logical leadoff man, a proven center fielder, and a symbol that the organization is serious about competing in the near future. The only concerns would be his injury history and contract demands, but a four-year, $60-65M pact with a vesting option that is similar to Bourn’s deal may be able to get the job done.

Photo Credit: Michael Baron

  • Reese Kaplan

    Just because there is money to spend doesn’t mean it will be spent. Each time a contract came off the books we were told, “Now there’s money since Oliver Perez is gone.” “Now there’s money with Carlos Beltran’s contract gone.” “Now there’s money with Luis Castillo gone.”

    When the option was on the table to spend for Matt Holliday or Jason Bay, the Mets took the cheaper route. We saw how that worked out. When there was a Michael Bourn on the table, they went for Collin Cowgill. The GM repeatedly joked, “What outfield?” and now we see the fruits of his lack of labor.

    You can’t, of course, put it all on the front office. Marlon Byrd must have photos of Terry Collins in a compromising position or something to warrant starting as much as he does. After a few straight years of decline and PEDs, the Mets considered him from the scrap heap. It suggests, of course, that PEDs was not the issue, but money since there was never a serious run at outfielder Melky Cabrera.

    While lately he’s been on a cold streak, I wish I had a dollar for every line I’ve read about why Jordany Valdespin is not getting to play on a regular basis. Why is it obvious to everyone except the manager that despite being flawed, he’s the most exciting player with the greatest all around potential of the 8 others who have tried and failed out there alongside that statue named Lucas Duda.

    All we heard while peddling away a Cy Young award winning pitcher and the reigning NL batting champion (who was allowed to leave without even making an offer) was how things would be better once Bay and Santana were off the books. Really? History hasn’t shown that they are willing to invest in anyone of substance except overpaying for their sole quality bat to play 3rd long after he’s no longer worth half of what he’s getting in salary. If they were serious about rebuilding then he would have been traded for crown jewel prospects just like they did with R.A. Dickey, but the misguided management felt overpaying for one guy was a better move even when it meant filling out the rest of the lineup with minimum wage has-beens (or never was’s) like Andrew Brown, Anthony Recker and Greg Burke.