Whether to trade a young star player or sign him to a long term deal is a dilemma that all Major League Baseball general managers face at some point. Injuries, age and fan attraction are always factors, however, it is a business in the end.
Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston Red Sox center fielder, is one such decision the team has to make.
After playing only 18 games in 2010 due to a injury sustained after colliding with Red Sox third baseman Adrian Beltre, Ellsbury returned in 2011 to have the season of his career. In 158 games, Ellsbury crushed 32 homers, stole 39 bases, batted in 105 runs and hit .321 from the plate. Ellsbury earned AL Comeback Player of the Year, a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger for his performance. After such an outstanding season, Red Sox Nation saw the Red Sox outfielder of the future.
But in 2012, Ellsbury sustained another injury that saw him in only 72 games. In those games, he hit only four home runs and stole 14 bases. After such a stellar season in 2011, Red Sox fans were disappointed with the performance, but still has love for the outfielder.
Ellsbury is set to become a free agent after this season. His agent is baseball super agent, Scott Boras, and all baseball fans know that Boras will squeeze every penny out of the team signing his player. Needless to say, signing a star center fielder won’t be cheap for the Red Sox.
Boras is known to make his clients hit the open market to drive up their value, instead of signing long-term deals while on a team. This is the reason the Red Sox didn’t lock up Ellsbury after his outstanding 2011 season. Ellsbury has signed single-year deals in the past two seasons to avoid arbitration, at $8.05 million in 2012 and $9 million in 2013.
A long term, multi-year deal worth over $10 million per season is expected from the Boras client, which isn’t bad for a star center fielder, but with Ellsbury having only played an average of 83 games per season over the past three years, there is the question of whether or not he will stay healthy.
The other option for the Red Sox is to trade Ellsbury. The center fielder would garner a lot of interest from across the major leagues, and would net the Red Sox a few prospects in return. After an ugly season, the Red Sox are in sort of a rebuilding year, and trading Ellsbury might be the right decision.
Ellsbury’s replacement is waiting in the minor leagues for his shot. Baseball America’s 31st-ranked prospect, Jackie Bradley Jr., is the air apparent in center field. Bradley spent the 2012 season between the Salem Red Sox and the Portland Sea Dogs. It is predicted that Red Sox Nation will see him with the big leagues in 2014, but in what capacity is still uncertain.
With a replacement for Ellsbury waiting in the wings and Boras looking for top dollar, the Red Sox might be in a better position to move Ellsbury by the trade deadline. Of course, the Red Sox will only move Ellsbury if the right package comes back. With the new CBA, the Red Sox would get a draft pick if Ellsbury declines a qualifying offer. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.