Since his breakout run as a rookie in 2007 that was pivotal in winning a World Series championship, Jacoby Ellsbury has been one of the key players for the Red Sox over the past seven seasons.
However, that run officially ended Friday when he was introduced as a member of the New York Yankees at a news conference at Yankee Stadium. Ellsbury became a free agent after the World Series and agreed to a seven-year contract with the Yankees worth $153 million.
“I’m proud to be a New York Yankee,’’ Ellsbury said.
“From the get go, the Yankees showed a great interest and showed that they really wanted me,’’ Ellsbury said. “I always enjoyed playing here [in New York], I love the tradition, the fans, it will be nice having them on my side now, but [it’s] just a great place to be, [I’m] honored to be here, and I’m excited.’’
Ellsbury becomes the latest in a list of players who have jumped from the Red Sox to the Yankees. Johnny Damon made a similar switch in 2005 after winning a World Series with the Red Sox in 2004. Wade Boggs, Babe Ruth and Luis Tiant also went straight from Boston to the Bronx.
Ellsbury will wear No. 22 with the Yankees, a number worn recently in New York by Roger Clemens, who won two World Series titles with the Yankees after spending 13 years with the Red Sox.
“It’s definitely been done before,’’ Ellsbury said when asked of switching from the Red Sox to the Yankees. “[I have] nothing but great things to say about my old team. I’m just truly honored to be here. I know the rivalry being in the AL East, it’s just going to be an exciting time; I’m just happy to put on this jersey and hat.
“I talked, not to guys who have made the jump [from Boston to New York], but I’ve talked to previous players that have played with New York or are currently with the Yankees, and they said ‘You’ll love it here. It’s a great city, you’ll love playing here.’ And they showed that they wanted me from the get-go, and from that moment on I was definitely excited to become a New York Yankee.’’
Ellsbury would not go into detail about his negotiations with the Red Sox about a possible return, focusing instead on how he enjoyed spending the first seven years of his career in Boston.
“It was seven great years,’’ he said. “The fans treated me great, the guys in the clubhouse… those are relationships that I’ll have for the rest of my life, regardless of what uniform I’m in or what uniform they’re in. And then the two world championships: I started my career with a world championship, ended my tenure there with a championship, so unbelievable first part of my career.’’
Ellsbury’s time in Boston included three seasons where he stole at least 50 bases, including a career-high 70 in 2009. He batted over or just shy of .300 three times; had a 2011 season where he hit 32 home runs, drove in 105 RBIs, and finished second in MVP voting; and helped the Red Sox win two World Series.
“You are no longer a thorn in my side,’’ Yankees manager Joe Girardi said to Ellsbury at Friday’s intrduction.
Ellsbury’s Red Sox tenure, however, was also plagued with lost seasons, such as 2010, when he played just 18 games after breaking several ribs in a collision with third baseman Adrian Beltre, and 2012, when he separated his shoulder in the home opener and played just 74 games as a shell of his 2011 production.
In his last action before joining the Yankees, Ellsbury thanked Red Sox fans for their support over his seven years in Boston, taking out a full page ad in the Globe on the day of his first press conference in the Bronx.