The Boston Red Sox have entered the 2012 off-season with a check list that they would like to complete and, with the signing of Jonny Gomes and Shane Victorino, it looks like they are doing just that. Both players were brought in to fill gaping holes in the outfield. Along with the signing of Mike Napoli to play first base, the team is officially in its rebuilding phases. This has left many people asking where does Jacoby Ellsbury fit in?
With just five years in the MLB, Ellsbury has been an All Star, Gold Glove Winner and Silver Slugger. He has also been a 2007 World Series Champion. Though he has never been looked at as a power hitter throughout his career, Ellsbury saw his best power numbers in 2011, which was also his best season overall.
With 32 HR, 105 RBI and .321 BA, not only did Ellsbury have a career year, but he was second to Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander in the MVP ballot. On the negative side, a history of impact injuries has haunted Ellsbury’s career and slowed his more recent success.
Last season, Ellsbury saw limited time due to a shoulder injury received in the first few weeks of the season while sliding into Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Reid Brignac. This second impact injury in three years raised concerns by the Sox front office on whether Ellsbury is physically able to complete a full season.
When healthy, Ellsbury has proven to be a stud against opposing pitchers. He has a career .791 OPS. If Jacoby is going to be let go by the Sox, this could make him a valuable asset to teams who are not only looking for power, but a consistent lead off hitter who can provide both elite offense and defense.
According to Peter Abraham, (Boston.com), the Red Sox don’t intend on trading Ellsbury. “Our expectation is Jacoby will be here and be our center fielder,” said Cherington. “Dealing Ellsbury is not our intent. We’re expecting Jacoby to have a really good year in 2013 and be a huge part of what we’re doing.”
Though Sox GM Ben Cherington doesn’t want to trade Jacoby, he may have no choice. The Sox starting pitching was a big reason for the September collapse and why they were cellar dwellers in 2012. If Boston wants any chance at seeing the playoffs once again, then they will need an elite starter who can lead the rotation. Sorry Jon Lester, but you are not that guy.
Trading Ellsbury could also open up opportunities to sign Josh Hamilton or Nick Swisher. A possible Cody Ross return seems likely as well. In one season with the Red Sox, Ross had one of his better years. Averaging 22 HR, 81 RBI and a .267 BA, Ross proved to be a productive player in the Sox lineup. Boston would hope that he could have the same production this season, with a steady role in right field.
Though signing Hamilton seems unlikley, due to the big contract he will be expected to ask for, nothing is impossible in Boston. If they want a player, more often than not, then they will get him.
If the Red Sox do trade Ellsbury, they have the resources to fill his shoes. One thing the Sox will miss though is the explosiveness that Jacoby brings to the game. Ellsbury is known for making the impossible play possible when needed.
It is now up to the front office in Boston to decide the franchise’s next move.