The New York Yankees said they weren’t going to wait around forever for Robinson Cano and it appears they meant it as hearts break everywhere in Boston. The Yankees said they weren’t paying Cano $200MM and stayed firm on their $170MM offer, gaining no real traction in negotiations with him. Instead, they are now handing that money over to Jacoby Ellsbury by signing him to a $153MM contract over seven years, with an option for an eighth year which could bring the total value of the deal to $169MM.
Not only is this the ninth richest contract in baseball history, it also beats out the contract that Carl Crawford signed with the Boston Red Sox in 2011 by roughly $12MM.
Ellsbury very likely took the best deal offered to him on the open market and the Yankees are betting on the left-handed hitting center fielder to transform into some version of Curtis Granderson with a much better contact rate and defensive skills. The fact that left-handed hitters do perform so well in Yankee Stadium is of great benefit to Ellsbury, and the Yankees, because it’s likely the only stadium he could spend half his games in and contribute enough offensively over the next four years to make this contract not seem like a mistake.
Left-handed hitters on the roster managed a .283/.349/.436 batting line at Yankee Stadium with 66 doubles (22 more than RHH), 7 triples (5 more than RHH), and 43 home runs (11 more than RHH). The platoon splits are a real thing at that ballpark and Ellsbury should greatly benefit from it.
The big winner of this trade isn’t the New York Yankees though. While Ellsbury got paid, a lot, I wouldn’t even consider him the big winner here. The biggest winner among the three is actually the Boston Red Sox organization.
Let’s be clear.
Jacoby Ellsbury and the 23.7 wins above replacement he produced for the Red Sox is worth an estimated $109MM, according to Fangraphs. What that tells us is that he has been worth that amount of money over his career, and would have been worth a contract of that value through the 2013 season. In 2013 alone Fangraphs estimates that he would have been worth $28.9MM on the free agent market based on his performance.
What the Yankees are paying, and hoping, for is that Ellsbury is able to exceed the value he provided to the Red Sox during the first seven years of his career over the next seven. For a speedy outfielder that is 30-years old already and doesn’t have much in the way of natural, legitimate power that could prove to be difficult.
The Red Sox are the big winners in all of this because they won’t be overpaying for a player that may have two more five-win seasons left in him before he starts his decline phase, much like Carl Crawford is doing now, or Johnny Damon before him, and the majority of all other speedy type outfielders before him. It’s the natural cycle of things and Jacoby Ellsbury is likely no different and the Red Sox are likely giving themselves silent high-fives for not falling into that trap again.