For quite some time, Jacoby Ellsbury was a member of the Boston Red Sox. He was drafted by Boston in the first round in the 2005 MLB draft and broke into the big leagues about half way through the 2007 season. After impressing the Red Sox by batting .353 and swiping nine bases in 33 games, Ellsbury made his way onto the postseason roster helping the Red Sox win it all over the Colorado Rockies. By the time the World Series came around Ellsbury was starting over Coco Crisp and because of this, Boston traded Crisp that offseason. Ellsbury enjoyed six more seasons in Boston leading the league in stolen bases thrice while hitting 32 homeruns in one season where he also stole 39 bases. After the 2013 season where he batted .298 while getting on base at the .355 mark and stealing 54 bases in 56 attempts, there was no doubt he would be gone. With Jackie Bradley Jr. on set to be Boston’s everyday center fielder, the New York Yankees scooped Ellsbury up in the free agency market for seven-year $153 million contract. This contract also contains an eighth year option in which Ellsbury would earn an additional $16 million. The New York Yankees had made a huge mistake.
Ellsbury has taken on the role of being the Yankees’ everyday center fielder, a role in which he said he is “ecstatic” to be in. So far this excitement has shown as he has racked up 12 hits in 33 at-bats along with four stolen bases. If he keeps this up, he will have a very successful season, and will meet the high expectations New York has for him. Unfortunately for Ellsbury, it would be almost impossible for him to do so. First off, he has played in nine games this season. This is a small sample size and with ups and downs he will face this season, he is unlikely to keep up this pace. Second of all, health is a big if for Ellsbury. In his career, Ellsbury has missed hundreds of games due to injuries. The most notable case of this was in the 2010 season when a collision with his teammate Adrian Beltre limited Ellsbury to just 18 games that year. Also, in 2012 a shoulder injury limited him to just 74 games, meaning he missed more than half the season. Not to mention the other number of times he has spent time smaller amounts of time on the disabled list. Based off of injuries and unrealistically high expectations, New York will be disappointed with Jacoby Ellsbury.
On the other hand, Boston benefits greatly from letting Jacoby Ellsbury lose for many reasons. First of all, they received a compensatory draft pick in this year’s draft. In the 2014 MLB draft thanks to this signing, the Red Sox in addition to the 26th overall pick now have the 33rd overall pick in the draft. The Yankees on the other hand, do not have a pick until number 56 overall. This was not all due to Boston, in fact signing Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran helped do the trick. Given that the Yankees have less picks and signing bonus cap room will hurt them in the long run, especially while Boston continues to load their farm system up with blue chip prospects.
Second of all, stolen bases are overrated. A perfect example of stolen bases having no outcome on a game is when the Red Sox beat the Philadelphia Phillies last year by a score of 9-2. Here, Ellsbury swiped five bases but did not score once. In fact, most of these steals came late in the lopsided game because Ellsbury was angry that he was beaned by an opposing pitcher. Also, not to mention the countless number of outs a base stealer can cost his team by being caught. Just by being caught stealing alone, Ellsbury has accounted for 47 outs for his team which is just under 16 innings worth of baseball.
Third off all, Jacoby Ellsbury is not a “good guy”. Ellsbury was a World Series champion for the second time in his career in Boston after the 2013 season was said and done, but he still wanted out. Instead of expressing an interest in returning to the team that made him what he was, he walked away so he could go where the money was. This was not surprising though, given the type of guy Ellsbury is. From personal experience, I have seen first-hand the type of guy Jacoby Ellsbury is. He is the type of guy who ignores fans, does not sign autographs for little kids, even outside the ballpark. Not that this makes him a criminal or anything, small things like this help the case that Ellsbury is a selfish guy which is why his allegiance to the dark side did not come as a shock to me.
Fourth of all, and the final reason why Boston benefits from Jacoby Ellsbury on the Yankees is that Boston can give their starting center field job to talented player who work for cheap. Whether Grady Sizemore or Jackie Bradley Jr. is the playing center field for the Red Sox, they are getting time from a quality player day in and day out without having to worry about health. In his first seven games since 2011, Grady Sizemore has looked like the Grady Sizemore of the mid 2000’s batting .364 with a .440 OBP along with a homer and two doubles. Even though Sizemore will not finish the season batting .364, it is encouraging to see him doing well and getting on base at a high clip. Sizemore is another guy who has had his share of health issues, but he is nowhere near as big of a liability. Only $750,000 of his contract is guaranteed, although Sizemore could make up to $6 million if he performs well this season. To put it this way, if Sizemore gets hurt, the Red Sox are only out under $1 million. If he is the Grady Sizemore of 2007, then Boston gets a star player and a leadoff hitter for millions less than what Ellsbury makes. Not to mention if Sizemore does go down, Jackie Bradley Jr. has been proving his worth out in center field as a quality hitter and defender. Bradley is also off to a hot start with eight hits in 20 at-bats. This is an encouraging sign because last season, he was a train wreck in April. The best part about having Bradley in center field is that Bradley plays for 1/16th of what Ellsbury made last season. Overall, Jacoby Ellsbury is a highly overrated player for the New York Yankees. Although he can put up some big numbers at times, he is injury prone which makes it hard to believe he will serve out his contract in its entirety. People rave about his stolen bases, although stolen bases are highly overrated and rarely needed (exception: Dave Roberts, 2004). Boston benefits from cutting ties with him in a number of ways, and gets to prove that they do tonight as the Red Sox take on the Yankees at New Yankee Stadium at 7:05 EST. Follow me on Twitter @CLNS_TOM