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Jacoby Ellsbury to the Yankees was an inevitability

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff  December 4, 2013 09:40 AM

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You knew this day was coming, so any feigned outrage or battle cries of “traitor” are simply disillusioned.

You knew Jacoby Ellsbury’s time in Boston was over. You knew the Yankees were a likelihood based on the amount and length of contract he and agent Scott Boras were after.

You knew the Yankees were probably just stupid enough to give it to him.

That’s not to demean what Ellsbury meant to the Red Sox during his seven years here. When he was on the field, he was a dynamic player, one who helped the franchise to a pair of World Series titles, something only the likes of David Ortiz, Curt Schilling, and Jason Varitek can also claim to have done the past 95 years. But after being burned with the Carl Crawford debacle, there was a zero percent chance the Red Sox were going to get in a bidding war for a player who is a nice complement to have, but hardly the face of a franchise, no matter just how darn cute his mug might be.

Seven years, $153 million. Your New York Yankees are back in business.

Thank goodness.

It’s not always an exact science, but I’m a sucker for Baseball Reference’s Most Similar Players list. Here’s Ellsbury’s Top 10:

1. Pete Reiser (952)
2. Shane Mack (942)
3. Angel Pagan (935)
4. Russ Wrightstone (935)
5. Johnny Moore (932)
6. Beau Bell (932)
7. George Watkins (931)
8. Roy Weatherly (930)
9. Happy Felsch (925)
10. Danny Taylor (924)

Shane bleeping Mack.

Reiser was a career .295 hitter who played mostly for the Brooklyn Dodgers in a career that spanned from 1940-52, so let’s use Mack as a more contemporary comparison for Ellsbury. Mack was a good player during his time with the Twins, and his 1997 season with the Red Sox wasn’t all that bad when you look back on it, but in the wake of losing Roger Clemens to the Blue Jays, nothing was going to please fans that terrible campaign. Mack was three years older than the 30-year-old Ellsbury will be when he first dons pinstripes, and by the age of 34, he was out of the game.

Mack had more consistent power than Ellsbury has displayed, hitting double-digits in home runs from 1991-94 with the Minnesota Twins. Ellsbury has done that once, during his magical, and somewhat, ahem, irrational season in 2011 when he hit 32. Remove that one season from Ellsbury’s docket, and you’ve got Coco Crisp.

Crisp will make $7.5 million next season with the Oakland A’s.

Ellsbury will make northward of $21 million.

For a team with gobs of cash wrapped up in Alex Rodriguez (if he plays), Derek Jeter, Brian McCann, Mark Teixeira, and CC Sabathia, and a farm system that just awarded the Red Sox a No. 1 draft pick by signing Ellsbury, the Yankees are the antithesis of what the Red Sox are managing to do with their payroll, after clearly losing their way with boneheaded “splashes” in recent years. Who just won the World Series again? It wasn’t the Dodgers, and it certainly wasn’t the Yankees.

This from Bill Madden of the New York Daily News:

I’m just not sure what the Yankees are trying to prove here. Now they’ve agreed with Ellsbury on a $21.8 million per year deal that will almost certainly be another financial disaster three or four years down the road, while giving them another “legs” player in the outfield when what they really needed there was a power bat. What happens to Brett Gardner? Are they trying to send a message to [Robinson] Cano that, if he doesn’t come drastically off his eight-year, $25 million per year demands, they’re moving on? Is this their way of saying to the Red Sox: “We’re back!”?

Whatever, this reckless, show-their-financial-might signing by the Yankees makes no sense, other than being another example of the Yankees’ intention of buying their way out of a situation in which their player development department has been bankrupt for years.

The Yankees are back to being like the arrival of the FBI in “Die Hard.” Their moronic moves are predictable and eventually, they will catch up to them once again. It’s nice to have some sense of normalcy once again though, isn’t it?

Ellsbury will be 37 at the end of his deal, whether or not he spends the bulk of it in New York. Hey, Magic Johnson could swoop in and deal for him in a few seasons, once the allure of Crawford wears off in Los Angeles. But just as the Yankees have proven just how dumb they are with this Ellsbury deal, nor would they have the smarts to pull off such a coup.

The Yankees are back to being payroll idiots, and the Sox will raise a pennant in the spring.

Shane Mack won a pair of World Series with the Twins too. He made just over $10 million in his career. Half of what Ellsbury will get in 2014.

Good for him. He’s laughing all the way to the bank.

As for the rest of us, we’re just laughing at the Yankees.

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About the Author

Eric Wilbur is a Boston.com sports columnist who is still in awe of what Dana Kiecker pulled off that one time in Toronto. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children. Comments and suggestions for the best Buffalo wing spots are encouraged.

Contact Eric Wilbur by e-mail or follow him on Twitter.

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