Outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury is the latest long-time member of the Red Sox to join the hated Yankees, courtesy of a seven-year, $153 million contract. An eighth-year option could bring the deal to a jaw-dropping $169 million.
My advice to Boston fans before swearing off his existence: Take a deep breath, let the anger subside that your Gold Glove center fielder, proven playoff performer, and speedy leadoff hitter is off to the archrival, and recognize as you exhale that this is good news.
Though it may initially feel like the Sox are being spurned in the same way they were when Damon left for the Bronx nine years ago after the Hub’s first World Series championship since 1918, begging the obligatory Jesus-to-Judas jokes and subsequent apparel, this situation is entirely different – as long as you ignore the ground they patrolled at Fenway.
The Red Sox desperately wanted Damon back and offered him comparable money to return. Ellsbury was never, not for one single second, going to get the kind of dough he’s on the brink of receiving from New York once he passes his physical. In the last few years, he turned down multiple opportunities to ink an extension with Boston, once reportedly for nine figures.
It’s really not all that surprising that he landed in pinstripes, either, since their need for a leadoff hitter, center fielder, relative youth, speed, and his ability to thrive for power in Yankee Stadium always made New York a logical destination. The only shock is the money.
When healthy, Ellsbury is an elite player. In his seven-year career, the 30-year-old has a .297 average, .789 OPS, 65 home runs, 314 RBI, and 241 stolen bases (with an 83 percent success rate). He was damn near an MVP in 2011.
The problem for his new team is that staying injury-free has been a challenge, essentially every other year of the star’s career.
The debate as to whether Ellsbury is tough with bad luck, or soft and fragile really doesn’t matter at this point. Broken ribs, a separated shoulder, hand and foot ailments, and a bruised ego have all been issues at one time or another, but the only fact that matters there is he’s missed 264 games over the last four seasons. Now, the outfielder is about to be paid $21.86 million annually. It’s hard to imagine there’s a rationally-thinking baseball fan in all of Boston who would have liked to see the Red Sox shell out that kind of money for his services, even after watching him firsthand all of these years. Give us Jackie Bradley, Jr., Shane Victorino, Carlos Beltran, or a slew of other suitors for a fraction of the cost.
Heck, hanging on to Carl Crawford would have been marginally cheaper, not that he’s nearly the player Ellsbury is.
After a playoff-less 85-77 season in 2013, the Bombers have locked themselves into two more massive contracts this offseason – including catcher Brian McCann’s five-year, $85 million pact – with reports that deals with Robinson Cano, Shin-Soo Choo, and a starting pitcher could follow. In the process, at least two compensatory draft picks are on their way out the door for a team that continues to build externally while simultaneously diminishing any hope of rebuilding a strong farm system.
As for all that talk about spending less in 2014? Well, if the $189 million luxury-tax threshold were a pair of pants, the Yankees are the dieting obese guy who opted for one more round at the all-you-can-eat-buffet. And, if Alex Rodriguez – with his $26 million in tow – isn’t suspended for his alleged transgressions, the belt might downright snap given all their remaining needs.
Ask yourself: Would you want Jacoby Ellsbury in Boston, potentially until he’s 38, for more than $22 million a year?
Before rushing to a decision, consider how Mark Teixeira’s dismissal of the Red Sox has worked out in the grand scheme.
If not, join me in wishing Ellsbury well and thanking him for playing an integral role in leading Boston to two World Series championships since 2007.
Odds are, by the end of the term, he’ll be counting his money at the bank while the Yankees are wondering what they were thinking on that chilly December evening in 2013. Historically, that’s how the story almost always ends, and that’s typically for the players without a history of being hurt before signing their big deals.
See you at Fenway on April 22, Jacoby. And don’t forget to shave that beard.
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About this blog
Adam Kaufman is a writer and broadcaster who can also be heard regularly on 98.5 The Sports Hub, WBZ NewsRadio 1030, the national CBS Sports Radio Network, and broadcasting Boston College hockey games. The Massachusetts native is a Syracuse grad and a pop culture fanatic who offers a unique and entertaining look at your favorite Boston sports teams. Please don't hold his love for Jean-Claude Van Damme movies against him.
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