Jacoby Ellsbury’s name has been tossed around in trade talks for roughly the past two years. To see his name arise once again, is old news. And in this go around, the Red Sox have a reason to trade him.
Boston signed Shane Victorino as one of their two main moves during the winter meetings. In spite of an “off” season, Victorino can still play a pretty good centerfield. So, this gives the Red Sox a chance to trade Ellsbury for some much needed pitching depth.
According to multiple reports, the Red Sox are listening to offers for their center fielder, but nothing is imminent. Given that he is still relatively cheaper than the prototypical outfielder on this year’s free agent market, the Red Sox could flip him for a hefty exchange. Granted, Ellsbury’s value was substantially higher when he finished second in MVP voting in 2011 with a .928 OPS. Many pundits thought that he would be traded last offseason because of that.
So without further a do, three teams that should aggressively pursue Ellsbury.
The Reds do have some options to ponder upon before considering Ellsbury. Probably the first name that comes to mind is Michael Bourn, whose losing leverage by the day. The potential landing spots for his services have been narrowed down significantly during the winter meetings.
Here’s a quick rundown; the Nationals patched their need for a center fielder with Denard Span, the Phillies did the same by dealing for Ben Revere, and the Giants retained Angel Pagan to eliminate their craving. So bit by bit, Bourn and the Reds are becoming a perfect match. The only road block is the money.
In which case, Ellsbury would be a cheaper version of Bourn, and possibly a better fit. By cheaper, I mean much cheaper. While Bourn sets his sights towards an average annual salary of at least $14 million, Ellsbury is in his second year of arbitration. And with an injury-plagued 2012 campaign to dent his wobbly portfolio, he won’t have much leverage in negotiations either.
But do the Reds have enough money to pay Ellsbury?
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported Thursday that the Reds did not talk with Shane Victorino or Angel Pagan about a contract. Both seemed to be possible fits, though, and neither would break the bank. Yet Heyman reports that the Reds didn’t engage with either of them due to money constraints, and also points out that Ellsbury will make similar money to Pagan and Victorino in arbitration. So I stand corrected.
This may be the nail to the coffin for this particular trade idea. Still, the Reds need a productive center fielder. Preferably a consistent one, too.
Per Fangraphs, Reds’ center fielders combined to post the fifth worst OPS in baseball with a .658 mark amongst center fielders. Only the Astros, Marlins, Padres, and Red Sox were worse. Yes, yuck indeed. May I also mention that Reds’ center fielders had the third highest strikeout percentage in baseball (27.1 percent)? They have Drew Stubbs to thank for that inflated figure.
If the Reds cannot scrap together enough change to afford Ellsbury for a minimal of one year, then it’s unlikely that Walt Jocketty will head into 2013 with an improvement in that area because money will prevent him from doing so.
New York Mets
For the Mets to even consider bringing Ellsbury aboard, there will have to be some type of formal agreement that they won’t lose him to free agency after 2013. For one, they won’t part ways with a top pitching prospect (Hello, Zack Wheeler) to possibly be a few wins better next year. Following that said route would be taking “stupid” to another level.
For the sake of the argument, let’s assume that there would be an agreement in place which would prevent Ellsbury from running for greener pastures next offseason. Ideally, he may end up being the upgrade the Mets need. And they do need something remotely close to a boost, as Andres Torres and Kirk Nieuwenhuis both posted OPS’s south of .700 in 2012.
The pair of Torres and Nieuwenhuis will likely be broken up next year, as Torres was cut lose in late November. As for Nieuwenhuis, his constant tendency to strikeout needs to be slimmed down substantially, or he will probably be deferred to a smaller role. That is, if New York finds an alternative whose more capable.
Jacoby Ellsbury, anyone?
With transactions come delays that usually stem from money disagreements. Just ask general manager Sandy Alderson, whose debating over to trade R.A. Dickey, or to pay him the big bucks that few players receive.
Paying Dickey would likely tap the GM out, especially after locking up David Wright for nearly the next decade. But if Alderson does indeed trade the Cy Young award winner, there will be some money to potentially put towards other areas of help. Therefore, dealing for Ellsbury would be a realistic proposition. It would be an even more feasible proposition if the Red Sox picked up some of the tab of whatever he makes in arbitration.
Perhaps acquiring Ellsbury would set the depleted Mets on the right path. Obviously Alderson’s work wouldn’t be merely complete by acquiring Ellsbury, but when healthy, the speedy left-hander is a game-changer, and therefore a perennial franchise-changer.
We all know by now how disappointing 2012 was for anyone involved with the Marlins. They spent the money, and they fell short of mediocre. How’s that for an exchange? Even worse, most of their hyped additions now reside in Canada with the Blue Jays.
So with 2012 still fresh in management’s eyes, it’s plausible to assume that money will be cherished a bit more down their in South Florida. Meaning, general manager Michael Hill will now be very reluctant to pull the trigger on any deal without precise examination.
Eventually, Hill will have to overcome this stable road block, though. In which case, why not forget about 2012 and proceed with no memory of it?
Well, that process is easier said than done, undoubtedly. However, waiting season after season to stave off the memory will create even more chaos amongst their hungry fan base that’s rapidly dwindling. Instead, plug the problematic holes first—centerfield.
Enter Jacoby Ellsbury.
Saying that Miami’s center fielders had a hard time producing this past season would be an understatement. Combined, they posted a .652 OPS, which is good for the third worst ranking in baseball. To be fair, ex-manager Ozzie Guillen never had a stable grasp on that area.
The Marlins do have a handful internal options to choose from, such as Gorkys Hernandez or Chris Coghlan, for example. Yet neither boast much consistency, which was ironically a theme for the Marlins this past season. Perhaps straying from that theme will lead to a different ranking in the standings. Simply put, choosing an internal option would be initiating a complete rebuild which is one way to go.
If Hill were to pair Ellsbury with Giancarlo Stanton, he would create a combination of speed, power, and consistency. I’d say that’s a good start.