Jacoby Ellsbury becomes a free agent at the end of this season, and since his agent is Scot Boras, the Boston Red Sox have no chance of signing him to a long-term deal during this season.
Ellsbury struggled in the beginning of the season but has been hot lately and is currently leading all of baseball with 36 steals. There has been concern over Ellsbury’s ability to stay healthy, but when he is in the lineup he is as good a lead-off hitter as there is in baseball. He plays a premier position, center field, so he will be one of the top free agents this off-season.
Last season there was a premier lead-off hitter was on the market, Michael Bourn, and he was able to get a $24 million a year deal. There will certainly be plenty of suitors for Ellsbury this off-season, so there is a real possibility the Red Sox will have to go into next season without his services.
Jackie Bradley Jr. has been touted as the guy that will step in if Ellsbury does not re-sign with the Red Sox, and Sox fans were looking forward to watching Bradley man the Fenway Park outfield, especially after his red hot spring. But he has disappointed in his 23 games in the majors this year putting up measly .155 batting average. While that is the very definition of small sample size, a club with as high of aspirations each year as the Red Sox likely won’t be comfortable going into the 2014 season with such a big question mark in center field.
If the Red Sox are unable to re-sign Ellsbury when free agency opens up, there is another lead-off hitting center field Scott Boras client that will be available; Shin-Soo Choo.
Despite there almost sure to be two options in Ellsbury and Choo available to sign during free agency, don’t be surprised if the Red Sox make a deal to ensure a back up plan before this year’s trade deadline.
Potential trade targets could include the Miami Marlins‘ Justin Ruggiano or Chicago White Sox‘ Alejandro De Aza, neither of whom become eligible for free agency until 2016 or later and are likely to be reasonably priced despite being arbitration eligible.