The New York Yankees have a Jacoby Ellsbury problem.
The Bronx Bombers appeared to pull off a coup when they signed the All-Star outfielder away from the rival Boston Red Sox following the 2013 season, luring Ellsbury away with a grandiose seven-year, $153 million contract. Ellsbury is a very good baseball player, but even before getting the benefit of hindsight, that seemed like a huge contract for a player who hadn’t quite established himself as a consistently elite (or healthy) player.
But since signing with New York, Ellsbury has been a major disappointment. While he was good for 14.8 wins over replacement (Baseball-Reference) in his final 366 games with the Red Sox, he’s produced just 8.7 WAR in 100 more games with the Yankees.
He’s appeared in just 58 games this season, and with Aaron Judge’s breakout season and the recent recall of top prospect Clint Frazier, Ellsbury is the odd man out, relegated to pinch running. That’s’ a ton of money for a pinch runner, of course.
The July 31 non-waiver trade deadline is less than a week away. Obviously, the Yankees would love to find someone willing to take him (and his contract) off their hands. Just as obvious, it won’t be that simple.
If the Yankees do trade Ellsbury, they’ll likely have to take on a similarly “bad” contract in return. ESPN’s Buster Olney had an interesting look at some contracts that might fall into that category, and one name certainly stands out above the rest: Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton.
“Stanton is owed about $300 million through the 2027 season, a deal that makes him almost untradeable,” Olney writes. “If Miami’s ownership became desperate to unload some of its debt, the Yankees could ask that the Marlins take back Ellsbury and at least some of his salary under the terms of any deal.”
That’s a scary thought for American League East rivals. Can you imagine a lineup with Judge and Stanton … and Frazier and Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird, once he’s healthy?
Just how realistic is an Ellsbury-Stanton trade, though? It seems … less than feasible. Sure, the money could work. Assuming he doesn’t opt out in 2020, Stanton is owed at least $285 and is signed through the 2027 season with a $25 million option for the 2028 campaign. That’s a ton of dough, but the Yankees’ checkbook is rivaled by few, if any.
Ellsbury’s contract, which has north of $63 million remaining and runs through 2020 (with a team option for 2021, lol), looks like small potatoes next to Stanton’s. Then again, so does Ellsbury’s production.
Also complicating matters is the ongoing sale of the Marlins. If owner Jeffrey Loria wants to sell off pieces before selling the team, getting out from that Stanton deal would go a long way. It could make the Marlins a more attractive commodity. But at the same time, he’s the only legitimate star on the Marlins roster at a time where baseball superstars are few and far between. And he’s only 27 years and still one of the best power hitters in the sport.
Fanrag Sports’ Jon Heyman reported over the weekend the Yankees already reached out to Miami about Stanton, and there’s not one mention of “Ellsbury” in the entire story. He also writes, “everyone involved says there’s practically no chance for a Stanton deal at a time when the whole franchise is in flux” given the ongoing sale.
So, to answer the question this entire story is based around, it seems as if the answer is, “Nah, probably not” — at least not yet.
Thumbnail photo via Aaron Doster/USA TODAY Sports Images