RSL Showdown: Jacoby Ellsbury - sign him up or let him walk?
Red Sox Showdown is an occasional feature that pits two Red Sox Life contributor's in a one-on-one debate. This week RSL writer's Ben Whitehead and The Guru tackle the topic of what to do with Jacoby Ellsbury.
Ben Whitehead: Sign him up.
Find me a better center fielder that is on the market and maybe then I will agree to let Jacoby Ellsbury walk.
First off, there isn't one. Secondly, Ellsbury is exactly what this team needs. The Red Sox are about to get young. REAL young, real quick.
We all know the starting infield of the future will consist of Will Middlebrooks, Xander Bogaerts, Dustin Pedroia and some first baseman. The outfield right now has a platoon in left, a strong center fielder who was in the MVP talks just two seasons ago and an aging right fielder.
Here's why you keep Ellsbury. He will solidify your outfield and allow you to build around him for the next five-to-seven years. He's a veteran presence who knows what it takes to win. When Boston brings up Jackie Bradley Jr., he can fit perfectly in left or right. We all know JBJ is going to be a star, but he's still young. He can play right, which depth-wise might as well be center, plus he has an above average arm, something needed from a right fielder. Or with Shane Victorino roaming right for another two years, let JBJ master the wall in left. Ted Williams did it and he is considered the greatest Red Sox player of all-time. Jim Rice did it. JBJ surely can do it.
If the Red Sox let Ellsbury and his agent Scott Boras do their thing this offseason and leave Boston, the Sox will be left with a rookie in center (or right if they move Victorino to center) and a platoon in left again. No stability.
We haven't even looked at the lineup. Ellsbury has anchored the leadoff position very well. Who would bat leadoff if he's gone? And who is going to steal 50-plus bases each season? If you don't think that's a big deal, you're kidding yourself.
Ellsbury is the right call. He's going to be a high asking price, but the asking Ben Cherington needs to do for himself is, "Is there a better fit for our ball club?" And the answer is simply, "No."
The Guru: Let him walk.
Jacoby Ellsbury is a dynamic player. No argument here regarding that. He's also about to get very, very rich. Too rich for the Boston Red Sox.
As we speak, uber agent Scott Boras is putting together his Jacoby scrapbook of highlights and stats that he will hand out to any team with cash; think Yankees, Cubs, Mets, Rangers. Boras is also preparing to buy his own Death Star once Ellsbury signs.
Unless John Henry decides to buy NBC, TMZ and the New Zealand National Rugby team, the Sox have the resources to sign Ellsbury to the mega-deal Boras is looking for. But make no mistake, it will take a mega-deal. Dr. Evil is thinking 10-years $200 million. That may not happen, but 8-years $180 million is a very real possibility.
Flipping through the Ellsbury scrap book, I see great defensive plays, lots of stolen bases, an All-Star appearance and an MVP caliber season. Oh, sorry, I'm looking at the Carl Crawford portfolio. Remember how that worked out? My bad. Go Dodgers.
The sort of deal Ellsbury is going to command just has too many risks. Let me give you three reasons why a deal makes no sense for the Sox: 1. Ellsbury is not durable. Over the last four seasons he has averaged about 75 games. That's less than 50% games played per season. Ellsbury has had broken ribs, separated shoulders, tight hammy's and pulled groins. I'm not saying he's fragile, but he's no iron man either.
2. Age is not on the team's side that signs him. Ellsbury is 30 years old. Signing a 30-year old to an eight or ten year deal rarely works out. The teams that do it don't usually win. Ask the Yankees about A-Rod or the Angels about Pujols. Paying Ellsbury $18-20 million a year at the end of the contract when he's pushing 40 is going to look real bad for the team that inks him. 40-year olds don't steal 30 bases, let alone 50.
3. Jackie Bradley Jr. is the center fielder of the future and the future is 2014. Bradley has the potential to be as good as Ellsbury and he's a whole lot cheaper. The Sox have control of JBJ until 2019 and he's not eligible for arbitration for three more years. Ben Cheringon would be wise to spend Mr. Henry's money in other areas; namely pitching, first base and pitching.
Don't get me wrong, losing Ellsbury will hurt a little. There will be pink hatted young ladies crying on Yawkey Way for weeks I suspect. But letting Jacoby walk makes the most sense for the team. The Red Sox will offer Ells his qualifying offer, get the draft pick and Boras will whisk him off to the highest bidder. Wave goodbye to Jacoby, Red Sox Nation. Don't worry though, he'll be back. In pinstripes.