Boston Red Sox offseason: Jacoby Ellsbury moves to the dark side

As the season progressed, it was clear to everyone that the Boston Red Sox were not going to retain the likes of gold-glove center-fielder Jacoby Ellsbury.

Both sides never seemed to be on the same page. Under the guidance of Scott Boras, Ellsbury desired a lengthy 7, or 8 year deal worth far more than $100 million, something the Red Sox were not at all comfortable offering to player of his caliber.

However, seeing him go another team, and seeing him go to the New York Yankees, are two totally different realities.

Jacboby Ellsbury

Jacboby Ellsbury

A few days ago, the Bronx Bombers swept in and signed Ellsbury to a whopping 7 year, $153 million dollar contract with an existent, or non-existent player option for an 8th year (apparently nobody knows). The contract would make Ellsbury the 14th-highest paid player in the Majors, while being the 3rd wealthiest contract offered to an outfielder in the history of baseball.

Before we look at the outcome for both sides, let me just say that I am not bitter about the signing. While I despite the Yankees and anyone who switches cities like that, there’s absolutely no logical way he could have turned down that contract.

Yankees outlook

The New York Yankees, a team who’s never been shy about their spendings, have reached into their seemingly endless pockets yet again.

Did they overpay for a player who has a history of injuries and relies heavily on his legs for his production? Yes. But the way they go about their business, if they can get four or five good years out of Ellsbury and another ring, they will be happy to drag around those last two or three years of the contract.

Ellsbury immediately upgrades the Yankees defensively, and provides them with one of the best leadoff hitters and base-stealers in the game. With Brett Gardner likely moving to left, the Yankees now have a ton of speed in the outfield, mirroring what the Red Sox had last year with Ellsbury and Victorino.

A career .297 hitter, Ellsbury’s production has always been consistent as long as he can stay on the field. His 2011 season remains a mystery to many, he put up MVP-type numbers with 32 homers and 105 RBI’s, but that’s not the Jacoby New York should be expecting. The way he played this year more closely resembles the type of player he truly is, posting a line of .298/.355/.426, similar to his 2009 season of .301/.355/.415.

The biggest knock on Ellsbury has always been his health. The concerns are very real, and Yankee fans should not brush them aside. While some of the injuries were fluky plays, there’s no denying the amount of times he’s spent on the DL. He played in just 18 games in 2010 with a rib injury, and missed nearly half the season in 2012 after hurting his shoulder while sliding to break up a double play. So, in six full seasons in the Majors, he has missed about 1.5 total seasons. For the Yankees sake, they better hope that doesn’t happen in the beginning of this contract.

Red Sox outlook

For Boston, aside from the slight sting felt from the losing one of their farm players to their rivals, there’s not much else to harp over.

The organization has a plan to move on without him, and they are going to execute that plan. I won’t sit here and pretend the Sox didn’t lose a great player, because they did, but when you’ve had a full season to prepare for it, it isn’t fatal.

The hardest thing to replace will be the speed and base stealing Ellsbury provided Boston for so many years. I think people fail to realize the importance of a good base stealer and just how much easier it is to score runs when alls it takes is a walk or a single to get a guy in scoring position.

I certainly understand the hit Boston will take in that department, but with winter meetings right around the corner, that speed can be found in other places.

There’s a number of directions the Red Sox can head now. They can take their chances at grabbing some of the outfielders on the market like Shin-Soo Choo or Curtis Granderson, although reports show the Mets are a more likely destination for Granderson. There’s also the possibility of taking on Matt Kemp’s contract from the Dodgers if they are willing to eat some of that money (highly doubt this scenario would happen under Cherington).

On the other hand, they could stand pat and give the keys to center field to Jackie Bradley Jr. and let him show what he can do. The question there is whether the organization feels comfortable enough going into the season with Bradley as their main guy.

I would personally lean more towards letting Bradley do his thing and avoid signing a corner outfielder that would block Daniel Nava and Jonny Gomes from playing time. But it’s really far too early in the offseason to try and predict an opening day lineup.

Alls we know is that the Boston Red Sox are the defending champs with the flexibility to make a number of moves if they choose. You never want to lose talent, especially to the dark side, but just be thankful the Sox didn’t open their wallets for $153 million dollars.

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