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We’ve seen this before; a popular Red Sox center fielder whose game is predicated on speed signs with the arch-rival Yankees. One’s gut reaction says this is exactly like the Johnny Damon situation in 2005, but if you put all the emotional muck aside, this is quite different.
If over these past three years you thought that Jacoby Ellsbury was returning to Boston, you are, quite frankly, delusional. Ellsbury is a mercenary, much in the same way as Jonathan Papelbon, who has always wanted to chase the money. You do not need to look any further than his agent, Scott Boras, to see where his allegiances lie. In the end, Ellsbury ended up with a 7-year, $153 million deal with New York. The fact that it was the Yankees who paid the most should not be a shock because the Yankees will be the Yankees (even when they say they are going to cut back on spending). It happened and the sooner we come to terms with that the better. The question is now: what next?
The Red Sox went into this offseason understanding that Jacoby Ellsbury would be on a new team, but with that team being the Yankees does that change their offseason plan? The answer is it should not. Ben Cherington should thank the Yankees for the draft pick and continue this offseason with the same plan. While there is work to be done, there are no major holes to be filled. Jackie Bradley, Jr. slides nicely into center field with Gold Glove potential and the ability to take a boatload of walks. Shane Victorino, Daniel Nava, Jonny Gomes, and Mike Carp are still on the roster, but it would not be outside of the question to add another outfielder such as Carlos Beltran or Andre Either for organizational depth. The magic of players like Daniel Nava and Mike Carp is that they are capable of playing both the outfield and first base, which gives Cherington a lot of creative license going forward. Jacoby Ellsbury going to the Yankees is a shock, but the Red Sox should stay the course.
The reality of the situation is that the Yankees are chasing the Red Sox. New York missed the playoffs last year and their biggest rival won the championship, so they felt like they needed to make a splash. Unfortunately for the Yankees, their two big offseason acquisitions in Ellsbury and McCann do nothing to fix their real problem: pitching. Their best pitcher last year, Hiroki Kuroda, cannot decide whether he wants to come back to New York, go back to Japan, or retire. After CC Sabathia, who was unSabathia-like last year going 14-13 with a 4.78 ERA, the Yankees have Ivan Nova, Michael Pineda, and who else? Not to mention a certain number 42 who will not be coming in to save games for the first time since 1997. The Yankees are scrambling and are throwing money around, but until they start throwing it at pitching they are going to fall short of the Red Sox yet again.
Looking beyond next year, the Yankees have put themselves into even more of a bind. Their GM Brian Cashman has been preaching that they want to go under the $189 million salary cap next year and that stockpiling draft picks is a must. The Yankees’ actions this offseason suggest two certain Steinbrenner brothers do not want to listen to their GM. The signing of Ellsbury and McCann loses them two draft picks (one to the rival Red Sox no less) and puts a huge strain on their payroll even before addressing the starting rotation. Looking three to four years down the line, Ellsbury will still be in pinstripes and will have probably lost a step or two in the field. All of a sudden, 50 stolen bases could become 20-30, and the Yankees wil be in line to pay him $21.8 million a year for three more seasons. The farm system looks barren as the Red Sox farm system is thriving with talent with one of those picks coming from New York.
In the end, this $153 million dollar deal will be a burden for the Yankees and a boon for the Red Sox. There is no doubt Ellsbury has some productive seasons left in him, but seven years is stretching it. Last year, the Red Sox preached discipline, and they are showcasing that yet again. As much as it will sting to see Jacoby in pinstripes, there is a young core of Red Sox farmhands ready for the call to the Major Leagues who should be more than able to fill his shoes.
Jacoby, from Red Sox fans everywhere, best of luck in New York. Just don’t forget to shave that beard.
Tags: Ben Cherington, Boston Red Sox, Brian Cashman, Carlos Beltran, Daniel Nava, Jackie Bradley Jr., Jacoby Ellsbury, Jonny Gomes, Mike Carp, MLB Free Agency, New York Yankees, Salary Cap, Shane Victorino