If the price for Shin-Soo Choo is Trevor Bauer and the price for Mike Morse includes AJ Cole, one has to think that these one-year outfielders are becoming more and more valuable as trade commodities. After all, Bauer was ranked #9 by Baseball America last year, and Cole was ranked #57, just ahead of Xander Bogaerts.
Ellsbury is certainly not coming off a stellar year, but then, neither was Morse. Choo did have a good year last year, but, like ellsbury, employs Scott Boras and in unlikely to re-sign. Apparently this means draft pick compensation is considered valuable. Personally, I think the sox might be a little better off gambling on a prospect rather than gambling on a draft pick.
Whether or not there is a market for Ellsbury is another matter. Many like to cite that his “trade value” was hampered by his injuries and ineffectiveness last year. But really, there is no such thing as “trade value.” A player is worth whatever you can get for him, which is largely based on how badly Team B wants the player. So with this in mind, I am going to set my price for Ellsbury at one good pitching prospect (potential requirement: on the 2012 top 100 list) plus one MLB outfielder to replace him. I do not see the inclusion of an outfielder as a stumbling block, as any team acquiring Ellsbury would have to accommodate him in the lineup anyway.
Is there a market for Ellsbury? I do not know. All I can do is see who needs outfielders or leadoff hitters and hope for a good return. I would assume any team interested in Ellsbury has aspirations for winning everything in 2012, so many teams with weak outfields, such as the Mets or Marlins, are really not in play here. However, there are a few:
Tampa. As it stands now, their outfield is probably Brandon Guyer, Desmond Jennings and Matt Joyce. And their weakness will be offense. While they do have Wil Myers in the wings, presumably expected by late May, this is a team in need of help at leadoff, and it is not all that hard to improve over likely leadoff hitter Yunel Escobar. Tampa also has a very deep farm and seems to find top-ranked pitching prospects in their couch cushions. And let’s face it, if the plan for the Sox is to weaken 2013 to be even better in 2014, what better way to do so then to weaken a division rival’s future in the process? If the Sox could get Chris Archer and Matt Joyce (or Brandon Guyer) for Ellsbury, they need to make it happen. Although to be honest, I would be surprised if they could get that much. Maybe the teams could agree on Jake Odorizzi and Guyer? Would Odorizzi and Joyce be an acceptable compromise?
Texas. So in the last two off-seasons, the Rangers have lost Josh Hamilton, CJ Wilson and Mike Naoli, and replaced them with Joe Nathan, Lance Berkman and Joakim Soria? And Sox fans think Cherington does not gamble enough? The Rangers are going to have to try to do something to keep up with Oakland, Anaheim and possibly even Seattle. Thank God for Houston, I guess. As of today, their OF includes David Murphy, Leonys Martin and Nelson Cruz. I am sure the Sox would love Mike Olt, but that is not going to happen. Could these teams agree on a package of Martin Perez and David Murphy? Would the Sox even settle for Perez, who was not all that impressive in AA and AAA? Would the Rangers part with Murphy, whom they are trying to extend? I really do not like Texas’ pitching prospects all that much, and I like their pitching prospects better than I like their MLB outfielders.
Atlanta. Atlanta does not need a CF, but does need a leadoff hitter. One minor problem is they really do not have an OF to spare, but if the Sox could deal Ellsbury for a prospect such as Julio Teheran, I could forego that aspect of the trade. (I would assume LF Martin Prado moved to 3B.) The Braves might be amenable to dealing Randall Delgado, since they tried to move him once already for Ryan Dempster. The real stumbling block here is that the Braves are reportedly going to make a move on Justin Upton, which would preclude any interest in Ellsbury.
Seattle. Really, it is hard to see exactly how their OF unfolds. Will Morse be in LF or 1B? Their other OF candidates include Mike Carp, Michael Saunders, and Casper Wells. One of these guys is already benched, and Ellsbury would give them a better leadoff option than the default Dustin Ackley. They have spare OF and good pitching prospects, but it is unlikely they take on too many one year deals for 2013. However, that is not my problem. If they send, say, Wells or Carp, plus one of the top pitching prospects (hopefully not Paxton), it would be tough to turn down. I do doubt they Mariners are willing to let so much ride on 2013 and take yet another player on a one-year deal. Ellsbury’s northwest roots are likely to be a non-factor when he signs.
Milwaukee. The Brewers have 3 top 100 pitching prospects from the same list, in Wily Peralta, Taylor Jungmann and Jed Bradley. They certainly could use a boost in CF, but RF Norichika Aoki is not a bad option at leadoff. Really, even a discussion about any deal hinges on two big questions – how much faith do they have in their 2013 chances, and how much do they like Logan Schafer?
White Sox. They do need to do something besides simply adding Jeff Keppinger and praying. Ellsbury is a definite upgrade to their outfield and overall offense. They do have some interesting young arms in Jose Quintana, Hector Santiago and AA pitcher Erik Johnson, and some stopgap outfielders they could send back (Alejandro de Aza, Jordan Danks). For those who think de Aza has potential to improve, he is all of 5 months younger than Ellsbury and has never had a season greater than 2.7 WAR. They have the potential to create the least exciting package of the bunch, and therefore are the most likely trading partners. I could see either Quintana or Santiago heading to Boston with de Aza as a reasonable deal. (Also, Quintana is a nice fit because Ken Harrelson frequently refers to him as “Carlos.”)
That is all I can see for interest in Ellsbury. Sure, three team deals are possible, but hard to make look convincing on a message board. If I had to predict, I would say the Sox keep Ellsbury for 2013 and make a qualifying offer. And while there are some deals on this list I would make, they are probably not all as simple as that, and maybe only the White Sox really match up.