Jacoby Ellsbury Won’t Pull a Carl Crawford and Other Thoughts on Outfielder’s Reported Deal With Yankees

Jacoby EllsburyThe Jacoby Ellsbury era in Boston is over.

Ellsbury reportedly agreed to a seven-year deal with the Yankees on Tuesday, adding a little extra sizzle to the Boston-New York rivalry that has grown a bit stale in recent years.

It’s unclear exactly how much Ellsbury will receive as part of his new contract with the Yankees. Reports indicated Tuesday that the deal is worth $153 million, although Yahoo! Sports Tim Brown has since reported that Ellsbury is guaranteed $148 million over the first seven years of the contract, which he says includes a $21 million option for an eighth year that comes with a $5 million buyout.

Whatever the case, Ellsbury is getting a lot of money to join the Red Sox’ most hated rival, which, like anything these days, set off a social media firestorm. As my colleague, Mike Cole, so eloquently pointed out, both fan bases have been trying to make sense of their team’s actions, when, in reality, the only thing that we really know for certain right now is that Ellsbury is going to be filthy rich.

This entire situation is just so juicy, though. So let’s bite into some leftover thoughts on Ellsbury’s reported deal.

  • First of all, is anyone really, truly, genuinely shocked by this whole thing?

We all knew that Ellsbury was going to put himself into a position to earn a hefty contract with a good 2013 season. And guess what? He had a very good 2013 season. The man deserves to get paid, and it was simply a matter of which team would give in to Scott Boras’ huge demands.

Remember, it only takes one.

  • Sure, the idea of Ellsbury donning pinstripes is a bit wild — just like the idea of Johnny Damon, Kevin Youkilis and other revered Red Sox players crossing over once was. The fact of the matter, however, is that this is life.

Calling Ellsbury a traitor — or “trader,” according to some Internet Spelling Bee champs — is dumb. While Red Sox fans have every right to be upset about losing a very talented, homegrown player who contributed to two World Series titles, there shouldn’t be any extra ill will because he joined the Yankees. The man was handed a far better offer, and he took it. Most people would do the same.

Ellsbury gave the Red Sox seven good years. Now, he’s doing what’s best for his family. There’s certainly no shame in that.

Click for the top 10 Red Sox who became Yankees >>

  • Ellsbury got his Carl Crawford-esque deal. Now, he must avoid a Crawford-like collapse.

My guess is that Ellsbury will be a very productive player in New York. You could make the case that Crawford was an even better player when he signed his contract with the Red Sox prior to the 2011 season than Ellsbury is right now, but there’s absolutely a mental hurdle that a player must clear in order to thrive in a big market. Crawford couldn’t clear that hurdle in going from Tampa Bay to Boston. Ellsbury already has cleared that hurdle in his career and should enjoy a seamless transition in going from Beantown to the Bronx.

  • Ellsbury, a career .301 hitter (40-for-133) in the playoffs, is coming off another strong postseason, during which he hit .344 (22-for-64) with a .408 on-base percentage. His propensity for stepping up in October probably held some weight in his negotiations with the Yankees.
  • If you think that Ellsbury is going to replicate his 32-homer, 105-RBI outburst of 2011 any time soon, you obviously think very highly of him. Or you smoke too much pot.

Ellsbury’s ceiling is probably more in line with what we saw in 2013, although it’s reasonable to expect some uptick in power, at least over the first few years of his deal. It’s all about Yankee Stadium’s short porch.

Ellsbury has four home runs in 33 career games at the new Yankee Stadium. That would equate to 9.82 homers (let’s call it 10) over the course of 81 regular season games in his new home park.

Damon saw a spike in power after joining the Yankees at age 32. The first three years of his New York tenure came in the old Yankee Stadium, but he still matched a career-high with 24 homers at age 35 in the new park in 2009. Ellsbury will probably have a few more balls clear the fence, even if he’s not jacking 32 bombs any time soon.

  • So is Ellsbury really worth roughly $22 million per year?

Not in my opinion.

Yes, he’s extremely talented. Yes, he should be productive in New York. And yes, he makes the Yankees better. But — and this is one man’s opinion — a nine-figure contract is easier to justify when it’s given to a bona fide run producer/someone hitting in the middle of the order.

  • There’s also Ellsbury’s injury history.

It’s unfair to label him “soft,” given the nature of his injuries. It’s totally fair to be concerned about his past ailments when negotiating such a big contract.

  • ESPN.com’s Gordon Edes reports that the Red Sox offered Ellsbury a five-year, $100 million contract during negotiations and were willing to offer a six-year deal worth somewhere in the vicinity of $120 million.

The Red Sox are better off for walking away from the table. Boston’s approach of sticking to shorter deals — even if it means overpaying in terms of average annual salaries — while focusing on developing homegrown talent makes total sense. There’s no need to revert back to old ways that proved problematic in the past. (See Crawford, Carl.)

This is especially true because the Red Sox have a young (and cost-efficient) replacement in Jackie Bradley Jr. waiting in the wings. Bradley isn’t going to replace Ellsbury’s offensive production in Year 1 — or perhaps ever — but he’s a viable center field option for 2014 who should even represent an upgrade defensively at some point down the road. He lessens the blow of losing Ellsbury at least a little bit — or at least enough to dissuade Boston from going to crazy extremes to re-sign the 30-year-old.

  • Despite Boston having been done in by large contracts in the past, there were still some Red Sox fans clamoring for the club to hand Ellsbury a lengthy, lucrative deal. Then again, those same people would probably rip Ben Cherington for the move the first time Ellsbury landed on the DL.

Oh, sports.

  • What is Robinson Cano thinking right now?

Cano’s demands — reportedly for 10 years at $310 million, and then for nine years at $252 million — are outlandish, yet a monster deal for the second baseman seems even more justifiable in the wake of Ellsbury’s deal.

If the Yankees are still trying to talk Cano down to a contract in the $160-$180 million range, they didn’t do themselves any favors in reportedly signing Ellsbury to a deal around $150 million.

  • Oh yeah, the Yankees have lost two draft picks in signing Ellsbury and Brian McCann (five years, $85 million). They’ll receive picks if Cano, Curtis Granderson and/or Hiroki Kuroda sign elsewhere, but relinquishing picks isn’t a minor issue when you’re dealing with a depleted farm system.

Have a question for Ricky Doyle? Send it to him via Twitter at @TheRickyDoyle or send it here.

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