It wasn't really a surprise to see him leave the Boston Red Sox -- as that seemed to be the team's plan all along. But seeing him join their main rival wasn't really expected -- especially since the Yankees already have a somewhat comparable player in Brett Gardner.
While one can make an argument on either side of the question of whether it was a smart move for New York, Ellsbury certainly is one of the most productive at the position. And he was rewarded for that production -- or at least the potential production.
Matt Kemp would join the discussion if he could stay healthy -- maybe Ryan Braun could hook him up with a "special" doctor. After all, Braun still owes Kemp that MVP Award.
Once you get past these four there's a pretty steep drop until the next best center fielder, so let's match up Trout and Ellsbury head to head and see what we get.
Ellsbury: In Jacoby's last two full healthy seasons (2011 and 2013) he put up big numbers at the plate, and it's clear why someone would reward him with the biggest contract for a center fielder since Vernon Wells (uh oh!).
Trout: No player in the history of baseball has started his career with better offensive numbers than Trout and the last two seasons, only Miguel Cabrera has better numbers (home runs, OBP, OPS, wOBA, weight, girth, air-displacement).
Ellsbury: Early in his career, it was unclear whether or not Ellsbury was a good defender with some pretty drastic variations in his defensive runs saved (DSR). Now it's pretty clear that he's saving defensive runs (SDR?) with the best of them.
Trout: In his first season, he was an elite defender and this year those numbers dropped drastically showing him as league average. He's probably somewhere in between -- not as good as his best but not as bad as his worst. Just like the rest of us.
Ellsbury: Despite being on two championship winners and playing for the hyper-exposed Red Sox, Ellsbury hasn't quite gained that "superstar" status. Maybe it's because his injuries have kept him out of the lineup or maybe it's because he doesn't quite have that "special something" that draws people in -- home run power.
Trout: Despite being on two disappointing losers and playing for the under-covered Angels, Trout has already gained that superstar status. His jersey sales have been in the top 10 since he arrived in the league, and it appears he does have both a charismatic personality as well as home run power.
Ellsbury: Right now, there's probably nothing more important in the whole entire universe than social media -- at least according to America's teens. The way to measure someone's social media influence is their Klout score -- a complicated mathematical statistical formula that's basically the WAR of social media. And Ellsbury's Klout score leads Trout's 84 to 83.
Trout: With over 380,000 Twitter followers -- 100,000 more than Ellsbury -- and a lot more activity, Trout seems to get social media. As with WAR, a Klout score is just a starting point in evaluating players and Ellsbury isn't particularly active in social media. OMG!
Ellsbury: Born in September, Ellsbury is a Virgo. That means he's hard working, efficient and intelligent. It's nice to have an exact science available to help us determine these things.
Trout: With an August birthday, Trout is a Leo -- though he should probably be a Pisces. (Right? Because Pisces is fish. Trout. Fish.) Leos are ambitious, risk-taking and powerful.
Ellsbury: OK, now we're getting down to it. With his mix of Anglo and Native American features, Ellsbury is just about as good-looking as a dude can get. Do you remember when he crashed into Adrian Beltre a couple years ago? It was a terrifying moment as the entire nation screamed out in unison, "Dear, Lord, please not his face!"
Trout: This might be the closest category of all. Trout sports the classic All-American good looks that are usually associated with football quarterbacks. We can only hope the Angels never start a "fear the beard" motto on the team that might somehow obscure his superb features.
Advantage: Ellsbury (but just barely! I would take either.)
Ellsbury: Jacoby is an excellent player with great overall production and he's even had an MVP-level season -- though he was robbed by the BBWAA when they gave it to Justin Verlander instead. And as huge as his $153 million contract is, if he just performs at last year's level for most of it, the Yankees will have gotten their money's worth.
Trout: For just over a million bucks, the Angels have enjoyed Trout's two phenomenal seasons -- robbed of an MVP Award twice by the BBWAA. Regardless of whether Trout goes year-to-year through arbitration or he gets a long-term deal, he is sure to set records financially just as he has on the field -- producing more value than anyone else in the league for two years in a row.
Center field is one of the most prestigious positions in all of sports and any team would be better off with either of these guys.
And if the Angels keep making smart moves like dumping Mark Trumbo on teams that don't know any better, then they could very well get Trout a championship ring or two.
Jed Rigney is a Los Angeles-based award-winning filmmaker who also fancies himself a baseball writer. He is the lead humor columnist at Through The Fence Baseball.
You can find him on Twitter @JedRigney.
- Sports & Recreation
- Jacoby Ellsbury
- Mike Trout