The New York Yankees still have more money than anyone else, and they don't care where they get their players — even if they used to be members of the Boston Red Sox. And they sure bought an expensive one Tuesday, signing outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury for seven years and $153 million. The Seattle Mariners also reportedly were in the hunt, as were the Red Sox, but not at that price.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported first that a deal was close.
The deal capped a busy day for baseball transactions — the Oakland Athletics alone made two trades — and continues a predictably expensive offseason for the Yankees, who haven't even signed Robinson Cano or a starting pitcher yet. With catcher Brian McCann also in the fold, they've allocated $238 million this offseason. Taking A-Rod's salary out of the picture because he probably will be suspended for some amount of the 2014 season, their payroll is $144 million. And rising, undoubtedly.
Ellsbury — like Johnny Damon, Roger Clemens, Wade Boggs and others before him (not to mention Babe Ruth) — goes from Fenway foe to Bronx buddy, simply with the transfer of some money. OK, a lot of money. At $21.9 million per season, average annual value, Ellsbury would have been the ninth highest-paid player in the majors in 2013.
He batted .298/.355/.426 with 48 extra-base hits and a league-leading 52 stolen bases for the World Series champions, also playing strong defense in center field. He turned 30 years old in September. Ellbury's biggest bugaboo has been staying healthy; he's been erratic about it since getting to the majors.
And how well will he age? Ellsbury's career path has been compared to that of Carl Crawford, who joined the Red Sox for big money and flopped. It's a fair comparison to a point, but also only one of many. Fangraphs has published a wider data set on Ellsbury types and it's encouraging for the Yankees. Dave Cameron writes:
It would hurt the Yankees more to put another mediocre team on the field in 2014 and watch their built in financial advantage begin to dwindle. The Yankees have a resource advantage to maintain, and the best way to maintain that advantage is to keep putting good teams on the field.
And Jacoby Ellsbury will help the Yankees put a good team on the field again in 2014, because Jacoby Ellsbury is a good player, even if he’s a good player because he’s fast. Runs created with speed and defense count too.
It's also fun to note that Ellsbury is the third outfielder on the Yankees to have signed a seven-year deal worth more than $125 million. The others: Alfonso Soriano and Vernon Wells. This one will turn out better than Wells — right?
Cano isn't a sure thing to re-sign with the Yankees, but it's not like Ellsbury's contract disqualifies them. They're they Yankees. They have all the money anyone could need and then some. But they also have a lot of needs. They're going to keep spending until they fill them.
As for the Red Sox. They had been expecting Ellsbury to go. It's business as usual for them: Just find another piece.
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