The New York Yankees made a big splash in free agency Tuesday night after they inked a deal with centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury that is reportedly worth $153 million over seven years, pending a physical. Some fans may like the signing, but the reality is the Yankees were foolish to offer such a contract to the former Boston Red Sox leadoff hitter.
First, let’s talk about why the Yankees made the deal. There is no question Ellsbury is one of the best leadoff hitters in the game. He posted a .298 batting average with nine home runs, 53 RBI, 31 doubles, eight triples, 52 stolen bases, 92 runs, 5.2 wins above replacement and a .355 on-base percentage in 134 games in 2013.
The stolen bases, batting average and on-base percentage is exactly what New York focused in on. His presence at the top of the order is going to do wonders for the Yankees’ offense in 2014. In fact, it could be just enough to give New York the edge they need in the American League East division. Of course, that is assuming Ellsbury can stay healthy, which has been a problem in recent years.
The inability to stay healthy and his age of 30 years old are two huge reasons why the Yankees should have stayed clear from giving him $20 million per season. Not to mention, his lack of power at the plate, with the exception of his 32 homers and 105 RBI in 2011, is a big concern.
The Yankees wanted Ellsbury in order to have someone consistently reach base and grab some steals in front of the big hitters. I can almost guarantee he will do that next season and maybe in 2015 as well. However, at some point Ellsbury’s speed is going to disappear along with any power left in his bat. Then what is New York supposed to do when he’s still under contract for five more years?
The large deal is also a sign that Robinson Cano is already out the door. The fact that Cano and the Yankees are reportedly more than $100 million apart in contract negotiations certainly doesn’t help.
Ellsbury is a fantastic player who is an incredible asset in centerfield. With that being said, $153 million is not meant for speed and on-base guys. That kind of money is reserved for the hitters who rack up the power numbers.