Jacoby Ellsbury and the New York Yankees have reportedly agreed to a contract that will put the former Boston star in pinstripes for the next seven seasons for a cool $142 million. The fact that he left Boston is no real surprise, but the Yankees paying absolute top dollar for a 30-year-old center fielder would seemingly make it very difficult for them to bring back Robinson Cano.
The Cano situation aside, I love this move from a fantasy perspective for Ellsbury. Over the past three seasons, the lefty has a .321 batting average and a sparkling .910 OPS at Yankee Stadium, numbers I’m buying into for 2014. Ellsbury has had one strong power season (32 homers in 2011) and is averaging 55 steals per 162 games over his career, giving him 20-50 upside with this move to the Bronx. He is a prototypical leadoff hitter who figures to approach 100 runs scored based on his raw ability, and if the proven hitters behind him can stay healthy, it is very possible he sets a new career high.
I like the move for Ellsbury regardless of what else happens this offseason in New York, but how the rest of the offseason goes could greatly impact some of his current teammates. Should they retain Curtis Granderson (rumored to have met with the New York Mets), I think the Grandy man can return big time value on your investment. In the ideal world for Ellsbury, the Yankees slot Brett Gardner at the leadoff spot in an effort to encourage Ellsbury to take on more of a run-producing role.
How will the aging Derek Jeter fit into this equation? Will he hit lower in the order in an effort to maximize the team’s efficiency? Will Mark Teixeira regain his power stroke? Can Brian McCann make the most of what appears to be a perfect fit?
There are more questions than answers at this point in New York, but one thing is clear: Ellsbury is a player you can build your fantasy team around. I’ve got him penciled in as my eighth ranked player overall and the fourth best fantasy outfielder.