Boston Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury is scheduled for free agency at the end of the 2013 season and everyone is expecting the 29-year-old speedster to have a great walk season.
But, what if it doesn’t happen? What if Ellsbury struggles to live up to expectations this season?
Not every player thrives with that type of pressure, playing under that type of microscope. The fact that the Red Sox have a home grown replacement in Jackie Bradley Jr. waiting in the wings won’t help matters.
So far this spring, Ellsbury has seemed soft, nothing like the dynamic player who burst onto the scene in 2007. In comparison, Bradley Jr. has probably been the best player in camp.
It is somewhat ironic that both players share the same agent in Scott Boras, in that the Red Sox might hold Bradley Jr. in the minors for a month this season in order to hold another year of service time due to the aggressive nature of Boras.
Ellsbury is extremely unlikely to return to Boston after this season because Boras will likely be asking for a contract of five-years and $100 million at minimum, numbers that would effectively price him out of Boston with Bradley Jr. present.
The calling card for Ellsbury is his 2011 season, one where you could make the argument that Ellsbury was the best player in the American League and almost single-handedly got the Red Sox into the playoffs.
The problem is that Ellsbury hasn’t had another season nearly as good as 2011. His 32 home runs and 105 runs batted in are far above his career numbers.
There is also the troubling fact that in the seasons around 2011, Ellsbury played in only 92 of a potential 334 games in 2010 and 2012. Hardly the type of durability that the Red Sox are going to want to invest in, especially given the recent Carl Crawford fiasco.
Is Ellsbury a good player? Of course and if he was willing to take Michael Bourn-money or Nick Swisher-money, then I could see the Red Sox re-signing him.
But, with Boras as the agent, it’s not going to happen. Ellsbury is as good as gone with the Red Sox collecting the draft compensation unless he has another injury plagued season.
Because as good as the flashes have been, Ellsbury has only been consistent at being inconsistent. That’s not the best place to be when you are on the brink of free agency, with millions of dollars on the line.