Yesterday the New York Yankees made a head scratching high risk move signing former Boston Red Sox centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury to a reported 7 year, $153 million contract.
There is absolutely no doubt that Ellsbury is a tremendous talent. He has the ability to change games both in the field and at the plate and has a resume to match. He is a very good top-of-the-lineup player with a career.297 batting average and a career .350 OBP as well as 241 stolen bases (and he’s only been caught 47 times). His defensive ability was recognized when he earned himself a Gold Glove in 2011.
All of that makes it seem like this move is a boon for the Yankees, but I don’t see it that way. Generally you build your team to suit your ball park, Yankee Stadium is a home run hitter’s paradise and the Yanks just gave over $150 million to a 30-year old player with only 65 career homers.
When is the last time a 30-year old outfielder with 65 career home runs received a $150 million dollar contract?
Ellsbury is player who relies upon speed to be effective. I doubt that 3 or 4 years from now, roughly half way through this contract, his legs will be the weapon they are now. He does currently possess the ability to be a game changer when he is on the field, but the biggest issue with this signing will be keeping him on the field in the first place. He has appeared in 150 or more games only twice in his 7 year career, he has played in less than 100 games 3 seperate times. The last time I checked, most players do not get more durable as they get into their 30′s. I just can’t see why the Yankees would make such a desperate move, they are not a desperate franchise.
The Mets on the other hand…
If this identical contract was given to Ellsbury by the team from Queens, I would hail it as a huge victory for them. They are a team desperate for a star player, even if that star was a risky investment. They are a team that needs to prove they are willing to throw money around this offseason to do whatever it takes to improve a perennially middling ball club. More importantly, they must provide some evidence to the fan base that the ownership is financially stable.
Ellsbury would have been a perfect fit for the Mets for every reason he makes no sense for the Yankees. His game is predicated on speed, not power, that suits Citi Field perfectly with its cavernous dimensions. He would be joining a franchise that has no proven winners on the roster from a team that just won the World Series. The signing would signal the dawning of a new era for the Mets as a free agent player to be reckoned with. He would arrive at the ballpark as a hero on opening day to thunderous applause. When he inevitably got hurt the fans would be upset and thrash the signing, but the front office would no longer have the stigma of being unwilling to make a big money move attached to them.
Both New York ball clubs made a huge mistake in one signing.
(all stats via baseball-reference.com)