Re: Will Ellsbury Stay?
posted at 6/1/2013 12:56 PM EDT
Here is my ridiculously early take on this situation.
The proposal of a 4-year $50-60mill offer is reasonable, and probably even a little high. I doubt anyone goes as high as $60mill for 4 years, but then no one thought Brandon League or Jeremy Guthrie deserved $25mill over 3 years. All it takes is one crazy GM.
There are a lot of factors working for and against Ellsbury when his free agency hits. The biggest factor working against him is the number of free agent CF available last off-season. And since none of them received one year deals, many teams find themselves already with long term commitments at the position. Minnesota also hurt his chances by unloading both their CF last off-season, surprising everyone. What works FOR Ellsbury, and potentially a lot, in this regard is that the Red Sox signed one of them in Shane Victorino. Had the Sox not signed Victorino, he very likely would have signed with Cleveland, who made a better offer. The fallout here is that Cleveland than would not have signed Michael Bourn. The last team interested in Bourn before Cleveland was the Mets, who are probably the most likely landing spot for Ellsbury once he reaches free agency after this off-season. They are. Deal with it.
The number of teams with actual payroll that will be looking for a CF figures to be limited to the Mets, Cubs, Rangers and Yankees. Doubtful all actually pursue a CF. The Yankees, for example, might devout more time and money to retaining Robinson Cano, and their dedication to getting below the Luxury Tax Threshold could make pursuing both an impossibility. The Cubs have numerous holes to fill, and CF seems to be where all their best prospects play. (Imagine that. A team run by Hoyer and Epstein with all their best prospects playing up the middle.) The Mets are in some state of rebuilding, and might commit to more youthful projects, although their farm is not exactly rife with OF talent. And the Rangers are not a team known for heavy spending in free agency in the post-Hicks era. They seem to prefer internal options, and still have that Kinsler / Profar / Andrus logjam to work out, which might spill over in to CF. Or they might find one or both of Leonys Martin and Craig Gentry acceptable, and focus on other areas.
Ellsbury is helped a lot by the lack of CF talent on the market, especially with the seemingly lost season from his primary competitor in Curtis Granderson. That Granderson keeps breaking things will be a huge factor in Ellsbury’s decision to accept / reject the QO. I think of Choo as a corner OF, and I bet I am not alone. However, the post-2014 free agent market does not offer a lot of prime CF talent, either, with Denard Span (who has a team option) and Colby Rasmus headlining. Even at one year older, Ellsbury still stands out. He certainly could take a one year $14mill deal and assume he can top Cody Ross money, meaing he would exceed a 4 year $40mill contract overall. But this is a gamble for a player who has lost 2 of the last 4 seasons with injuries. (Of course, he could reject the QO and still take a one year deal anywhere and run the same risk. If oft-injured Kevin Youkilis can get a 1 year $12mill offer, Ellsbury would not surprise with a one year offer in the $15mill range. And while Ellsbury would carry a lost draft pick and budget for the signing team, they could easily get it back by offering him a QO, making more of a delayed draft pick as opposed to a lost one.
The main competition figures to come from available CF in trade. Jordan Schafer, Gerado Parra, and Jose Tabata could all change uniforms, although their appeal will extend to be some of the more frugal teams that Ellsbury is going to avoid anyway, and not just the 4 named above. He is not going to get an offer from the Marlins or Astros, not one he accepts anyway. I could see the Yankees going after Parra or a LF (and/or move Gardner to CF) as opposed to committing to Jacoby.
Of course, just because a team signed a CF long term last year does not always mean they are done. The Dodgers signed Andruw Jones one year after committing to Juan Pierre. The Angels signed Torii Hunter one year after signing Gary Matthews Jr. It does happen, and there is always the chance some team that acquired a CF this past offseason decides they still can afford to take another chance. While it is doubtful the Braves make a move to replace the struggling BJ Upton for reasons related to his contract and their poor TV deal, I could see the Phillies making a play for a CF, especially since their on the verge of inking a landmark TV deal that rivals the Dodgers. However, the presence of Revere might deter Ellsbury, if he fears he might be moved to LF again. Apparently, he was not wild about it last time.
A lot could happen between now and October. If the Sox fall out, Ellsbury might be trade fodder next month and dealt for a prospect or two (negating his eligibility for a Qualifying Offer altogether). If he is traded in July, I could see Texas getting involved. Other candidates are a little hard to see right now, but injuries figure to play a big part in it. But if he finishes in Boston, my prediction would be he rejects a QO and signs a deal in the 4 year $50mill range with either the Mets or the Phillies. Had Boun wound up on the Mets, it really does get a lot harder to see who might even be interested.
But, yes, he is very likely gone after this year. Chances are over 90%.
Anyway, that’s ridiculously early take…