Jul 28, 2011, 08:25AM

Jacoby Ellsbury Is Still Dead To Me

When should Boston trade?

Gold jacobyellsbury.1202.time to.jpg?ixlib=rails 2.1

Jacoby Ellsbury has won back the hearts of Red Sox Nation this season after whining his way through a lost 2010, but not mine. The baby is having an MVP caliber season, he may even be behind the Sox’s recent surge; I couldn’t care less. His numbers are absolutely gaudy, a .325/.383/.528 slash line with 17 home runs and 29 stolen bases proves it, but how long can he keep this up? I’m not saying he’s going to start slumping to begin the month of August; I’m talking long-term. Almost 28, Ellsbury will be a free agent at 30, when a player’s legs historically start to slow down, and if his agent Scott Boras gets what he thinks he can out of GM Theo Epstein, then Boston might be saddled with a two-tool centerfielder who can hardly cover his ground, let alone hit the cutoff man, until 2020.

But for now, Ellsbury is one of the most valuable outfielders in baseball. After discovering his power this year, analysts have dubbed him a “complete” player, and he currently ranks third in WAR, behind only Jose Bautista and teammate Dustin Pedroia. It seems that the power has gone to his head, however, seeing as he’s only swiped four bags in July. Not every aspect of his game is perfect, though, because the fan favorite still doesn’t walk nearly enough. Luckily his OBP is still strong because it’s supported by a high batting average, but he can’t be expected to hit .325 every year.

Epstein shouldn’t entertain the idea of trading him this summer, because for now Boston needs him, but in the offseason that’s a conversation worth having. Knowing Boras, Ellsbury will demand some obscene figure near $10 million in arbitration next winter, which is especially ludicrous considering the fact that he making only $2.4 million this season. In the outfielder’s third go-around, he can expect a salary of around $15 million. That’s fine, the Sox can afford two years of a top-notch up-the-middle player for $25 million; in fact, it’s still a bargain. What they can’t afford is a $20 million regressing, aging mistake tied to them for the next seven years. They already have one those, Carl Crawford, and he doesn’t even play center.

Not only is there a glut of outfielders on the market, both through trade now and free agency in the winter, Boston also has about 12 high upside ones in the low-middle minors. Chih-Hsien Chiang, Alex Hassan, Jeremy Hazelbaker, Ryan Kalish, Brandon Jacobs, and Bryce Brentz are just the headliners. Boston’s starting rotation, however, is not as stocked. Clay Buchholz might sit out the rest of the season, but he’ll be back next year, unlike Daisuke Matsuzaka, who’s in all likelihood already pitched his last game as a Red Sox. Three-team deals are one of Epstein’s signature moves, and putting Ellsbury on the block is a sure fire way to start another one. Clubs like the Braves, Giants, Pirates (the new “America’s Team”), and Reds could all be interested. Regardless of who they deal with, Epstein needs to get full value out of his centerfielder sooner rather than later. Who knows, his next game against the Rangers might be his last, with Adrian Beltre patrolling the hot corner.

  • Generally I'm sure Epstein explores his players value on the trade market regularly, but why would you deal Ellsbury? For the foreseeable future the team is in win-now mode and all the guys you mentioned have the upside, that is if they reach the absolute nadir of their potential, of what Ellsbury is now.

    Responses to this comment
  • It's more of a long-term thing. Ellsbury's at the peak of his value, and performance. I seriously doubt that he'll ever have a season better than, or even one that rivals, this year. If the Sox can get an ace out of Ellsbury and then trade for a Denard Span/Michael Bourn type, I don't see why they wouldn't. Dealing with Boras is going to be a huge mess, and in two years I can't imagine giving Ells a $100+ million extension. Just because Boston can afford to wait on players and make bad deals, doesn't mean they should.

    Responses to this comment

Register or Login to leave a comment