Free Agent Forecast: Jacoby Ellsbury
He's always been a good player, but we don't know what kind of good player he is. Is he a power threat with speed? Or is he purely a stolen base guy who can hit with a high average? Well, he's been both in his career thus far. In 2011, he hit 32 home runs and drove in 105 RBIs. But in the rest of his six seasons in Major League Baseball, he's hit a combined 33 home runs. What we do know is that he's been a consistent base stealer, averaging about 34 steals a season. He has a respectable career batting average of .297 and has gotten on base 35% of the time, and is also a very good center fielder. And now, coming off his second World Series title with the Red Sox, Ellsbury finds himself a free agent.
The number one thing that impedes the Yankees interest in Ellsbury is Brett Gardner. Gardner is not quite as good as Ellsbury, but he's a very similar player. They both are stellar in the field and steal bases, and can both hit the ball out of the ballpark on occasion. If the 2011 Jacoby Ellsbury was for sale this offseason, he would be high on the Yankees' list, but we haven't seen that player since and the Yankees don't see the need to add another speed-first outfielder to a group that already includes Ichiro Suzuki and Brett Gardner. Not to mention the fact that Ellsbury is 30 years old, and guys who rely on speed in their thirties usually don't see too much success. With Carlos Beltran and Shin-Soo Choo also on the market, the Yankees will look to use their money on outfielder with more power and, in Choo's case, a better on-base percentage.
I think Ellsbury will end up getting a deal around $90 million from a team that's in desperate need of a bat in the outfield. He reminds me a bit of Johnny Damon, in that he was a long-time Yankee killer with the Red Sox and relied on speed during his early years. Of course, Damon ended up signing a four-year, $52 million contract with the Yankees. Although that deal actually sounds fair for what Ellsbury brings to the table, he will surely get more money in this day and age. I would look out for a team like the Texas Rangers. They have some question marks in the outfield and have new ownership with money to spend.