Ellsbury, who finished second in MVP voting in 2011, hit .271 in just 74 games last year, marking the second time in three seasons he’s been plagued by an injury. That has led to scrutiny from some Red Sox fans who aren’t too confident in the outfielder’s ability to stay healthy.
A big bounce-back campaign from Ellsbury would go a long way toward helping the Sox climb out of the AL East cellar, but it’s even more important for the 29-year-old because he’s up for free agency after this season. Ellsbury figures to land a lucrative deal, but this season will determine just how big the Scott Boras client’s next contract will be.
The Red Sox avoided arbitration with Ellsbury on Friday, and he’s reportedly slated to make $9 million this season. Given the monster year he had in 2011 and the obvious talent, Ellsbury will likely be given a healthy raise when he signs his next deal. Boras has been known to land players big contracts, and there will likely be a sizable market for the speedster.
Ultimately, that means the Red Sox will need to pay up in order to retain Ellsbury’s services beyond 2013. There will surely be trade speculation throughout the year as well, as some feel the club should consider dealing Ellsbury in order to bring in talent, rather than just letting him walk away via free agency.
Players generally elevate their game in contract years, which means a big season could be on the horizon for Ellsbury. The big question, however, is whether it’ll be his last in Boston.