At 30-years-old and coming off of a season where he stole 52 bases and hit at the top of the order for the World Series Champion Boston Red Sox, outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury will be an attractive piece for many teams this offseason. Almost every single Ellsbury rumor mentions the Chicago Cubs as a possible landing spot. Personally, I think it is in the best interest of the Cubs to pass on the speedy outfielder.
Connecting Ellsbury to the Cubs makes perfect sense. Team President Theo Epstein and General Manager Jed Hoyer were both key members for the Red Sox in 2005 when they selected Ellsbury in the first round. Obviously the Cubs’ front office believes in his talent. Also, in a big market and their current inexpensive roster, you have to imagine that the Cubs would have plenty of money to spend on a big name free agent like Ellsbury. I understand why the player and team are being connected, but that does not make it the correct move.
Just because the Cubs have money to spend right now, does not mean that they need to go crazy in free agency. Yes, the team has struggled mightily the past few seasons, but spending at will in free agency would just be a quick fix. When they came aboard before the 2012 season, Epstein and Hoyer had a plan to rebuild the Cubs through the Minor League system — so far so good. The Cubs have some of the best prospect talent in the game with guys like Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Albert Almora and Jorge Soler. The Major League results have not been there for the Cubs, but there is a ton of young talent in this organization.
I think that the Cubs should be active this offseason in free agency, but Ellsbury is just not the guy. Tim Dierkes of MLBTradeRumors.com, predicts that Ellsbury will receive a seven-year contract worth $150 Million. I simply cannot see the Cubs getting in to the race for that kind of money; Ellsbury is 30-years-old. While he certainly has some productive years left in him, he is more valuable to a team that is ready to compete right now, not one built for the future like the Cubs.
I think whoever signs Ellsbury this offseason will regret it down the road. His career line of .297/.350/.439 is solid, but does not blow you away by any means. In 2011, Ellsbury hit 32 home runs, but he has never showed that kind of power again as his next career high is nine. Defensively, he is good in center field, but he is not elite by any means.
Ellsbury’s best asset is his speed. He has always been able to steal a lot of bases and at a high percentage. The first skill that deteriorates with age is speed. At 30-years-old, Ellsbury does have a couple of prime years left, but he is not going to be able to steal 50+ bases much longer. Once that speed goes away, Ellsbury is not worth even close to the $20 million a season he will probably get in free agency.
The Cubs are simply not in a position to win right now, and adding a piece like Ellsbury does not make them much closer. He is a great player, and will be a fantastic addition to a team this offseason, but it should be a team that is ready to compete now. They will surely check in, but I highly doubt that Ellsbury becomes a member of the Cubs.