Published on May 9th, 2013 | by Josh Chapdelaine1
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 for 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