Unless a few Red Sox fans were under a rock in the past 24 hours they would not be shocked to hear that Jacoby Ellsbury is now a New York Yankee. Ellsbury and the Yankees came to an agreement on a 7 year deal worth $153MM. Of course the next question to ask is who will be the Red Sox center fielder of 2014?
Ellsbury had plenty of critics in Boston. He suffered through injuries, some that were not his fault, and faced criticism for the time he spent on the disabled list. In 2010 Adrian Beltre collided with him in a game in Kansas City when the Red Sox tried him as a left fielder, and he suffered broken ribs. If he were in center field, that injury would have never happened. In 2012 Sean Rodriquez of the Rays fell on Ellsbury’s shoulder while turning a double play and Ellsbury missed a lot of time that season as well. This year he played through injury after missing most of September with a fractured bone in his foot, came back and had a successful postseason ultimately helping the Red Sox win the World Series.
Ellsbury has super agent Scott Boras by his side and many expected him to be good as gone once the free agency period started. Ultimately the Red Sox did not want to match years and dollars for a player whose main component to his game is speed. Ellsbury is 30 years old and certainly will lose a step or two during the life of the contract. His injury history is well documented but the guy is one helluva ballplayer. The Carl Crawford contract had to hurt the Red Sox in this regard as Ellsbury in my opinion is better than Crawford and used that contract as a measuring stick. Crawford is now with the Dodgers and Ellsbury now with the Yankees, while the Red Sox are on a search for a new outfielder.
The census seems to be that the Sox brass do not want to move Shane Victorino over from right field as he is a great defender at Fenway Park and might save his legs for the base paths. Certainly Victorino projects to be the Red Sox lead off hitter at this current time as they do not want Pedroia to lead off. Carlos Beltran is still available, but its rumored to be holding out for a three year contract and the Red Sox will only go as far as two. Shin-Soo Choo is the next diamond outfielder on the free agent market but projects to get a larger contract as well that the Red Sox might not want to offer. Also he projects as more of a corner outfielder like his time with the Indians but the Reds did play him in center field last year. The Red Sox could even turn to former Yankee center fielder Curtis Granderson but he expects to command a larger contract as well and the Red Sox would not want to extend themselves on the Grandy Man.
In a perfect world the Red Sox would just plug Jackie Bradley Jr. in center field next year and not miss a beat but that is not expected. I expect the Sox to sign a bench type piece who can play everyday if Bradley happens to struggle. Free agents who fit that mold could be Reed Johnson, Franklin Gutierrez, or Rajai Davis. Davis personally I would love as he always crushed the Red Sox when with the Blue Jays and would be a force on the base paths in the late innings. He would not command a lot of money in my opinion but have heard no rumors of such interest.
Will the Red Sox trust Jackie Bradley Jr. to be their everyday center fielder next year?
Lost in all of this is another member of the World Series team left via free agency yesterday with Jarrod Saltalamacchia signing with the Miami Marlins for 3 years and $21MM. This was after the Red Sox signed his replacement A.J. Pierzynski to a one year deal worth $8.25MM. The Sox did not want to go past two years with Salty and saw him go to the Marlins which is close to his Florida home. The trade off will not be too much as Pierzynski and Saltalamacchia are very much the same type of player. Will not put up great at bats for you but will swing the bat with force and provide average defense behind the plate. David Ross and Pierzynski will split time behind the plate, but one has to wonder if the 37 year old catching tandem holds up for the whole season and if Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart will be ready after next season.
Make no mistake about it the Red Sox losing Ellsbury will be a big loss but a full year of Xander Bogaerts and a healthy Dustin Pedroia will certainly carry some weight when it comes to the offense. It is refreshing to see the Sox not extended themselves and not get into holes with players. The Dodgers dug them out, no need for repeat. Ellsbury will certainly be booed during the three series the Yankees visit Fenway next season but fans don’t forget he was apart of two World Series winning teams. The Yankees offered him a lot of money and he took it. He most certainly won’t live up to the contract much like other players who make $20 million a year. It was a good run Ellsbury, I just hope you don’t steal maybe bases off Ross and Pierzynski next year.