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Red Sox want to keep Jacoby Ellsbury, but worry about his price

Sep 6, 2013, 9:00 PM EDT

Jacoby Ellsbury AP

Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury is having a great season, currently hitting .299 with a league-leading 52 stolen bases while playing outstanding defense. He’s a big reason why the Red Sox are 6.5 games in front of the Rays in first place in the AL East, and he will be a big part of their post-season hopes.

What happens after that, though, is unknown. Ellsbury, who turns 30 on the 11th, will be eligible for free agency and is expected to draw a lot of interest. The Red Sox want to keep him around, but as Jon Heyman of CBS Sports writes, they worry about his price tag extending into the nine figure range:

The Red Sox tried to re-sign Ellsbury sometime before this season, and all indications are they will try again. The issue is whether they have interest in getting into a bidding war that could go easily past the $100 million mark, well past it if you listen to Ellsbury’s agent Scott Boras’ words Thursday.

Boston had huge success dealing last winter in what’s been dubbed the “mid-range” market, scoring big with its deals for Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli and others, and that strategy may be weighing on them. It’s no surprise there are people within the Red Sox hierarchy who aren’t anxious to return to the $100 million-plus type deals that haven’t always paid off for them.

Ellsbury will likely be the most sought-after player in free agency, but he does bring with him some concerns. He’ll be 30 years old when his contract begins, meaning he’ll be in his mid-30’s when it ends. He has suffered two serious injuries in his career, which seems more emblematic of his play style than anything. And a large portion of his value is derived from his legs — his ability to play defense and steal bases — which was a common concern among teams that pursued Bourn but eventually backed down. Bourn eventually signed with the Indians in February on a four-year, $48 million contract.

  1. aceshigh11 - Sep 6, 2013 at 9:20 PM

    That’s a tough one.

    He’s a great player and he brings speed to a team that historically has rarely relied on it, but his skill set oftentimes doesn’t age well (see: Crawford, Carl).

    Couple that with having Boras for an agent, and I have a hard time seeing the Sox make this deal, as tempting as it might be.

    • proudlycanadian - Sep 6, 2013 at 9:23 PM

      Agreed!

      • Glenn - Sep 6, 2013 at 10:06 PM

        Disagree – speedy players with “young player” skills always age better than players with “old player” skills. Read Bill James. In a nutshell, players with old player skills have no where to go, where as players with young player skills can readjust and adopt old player skills. Rob Deers, Sal Bandos, Tom Brunanskys, etc., retire early. Ricky Hendersons and Otis Nixons play until middle age.

    • proudlycanadian - Sep 6, 2013 at 10:23 PM

      I am sure that you are enjoying tonight’s game so far

      • aceshigh11 - Sep 6, 2013 at 10:31 PM

        Oh, you have no idea.

        I don’t have cable, but I’m keeping up with the box score and watching the highlight videos on MLB.com as they roll in.

        I just love the “never say die” attitude of this team. It used to be that if the Sox were losing going into the 6th or 7th inning, you could just shut the game off…they seemed incapable of coming from behind, even when Francona was coaching.

        This team? Completely different mindset. It’s really refreshing.

      • proudlycanadian - Sep 6, 2013 at 11:05 PM

        The Jays game in Minnesota began an hour later and ended sooner than the Red Sox game.

      • mornelithe - Sep 6, 2013 at 11:44 PM

        Red Sox are among, if not the league leaders in pitchers per plate appearance. I know the Yankees do this too, but I’m not certain of their ranking this year. Taking and fouling off tons of pitches really does lengthen the game.

        In the past their pitchers definitely added to the time (like Matsuzaka for example), but this year the BP is actually pitching faster, and the games are taking just as long if not longer.

      • ilovekneegrows - Sep 7, 2013 at 2:17 AM

        “league leaders in pitchers per plate appearance.”

        Fill me in on this stat, bro. More than one pitcher per plate appearance…. So that’s how they’re doing it!

  2. chip56 - Sep 6, 2013 at 9:23 PM

    I would worry more about the fact that he’s inconsistent and injury prone.

  3. tfbuckfutter - Sep 6, 2013 at 9:44 PM

    A contract in line with Bourn is reasonable.

    Anyone who signs him more than 4 years at $15,000,000 or more will end up fired before the contract hits the halfway mark.

    • gibbyfan - Sep 6, 2013 at 10:20 PM

      Bet teh Angels might

  4. pisano - Sep 6, 2013 at 11:14 PM

    If they want him, they better get ready to pay big for him, teams will be waiting in line for this guy, he’s a game changer, no doubt.

  5. redsghost - Sep 6, 2013 at 11:32 PM

    The guy’s not worth it..not in the 100 mil. range anyways. This year ( a contract year) has been great, but injuries and inconsistency remain an issue, and you shouldn’t have to worry about issues when handing out 20 mil per year.

  6. thebigtim2012 - Sep 6, 2013 at 11:49 PM

    With Jackie Bradley jr coming along I wouldn’t pay jacoby that much. All the issues stated above are very valid and well documented.

    • redsghost - Sep 7, 2013 at 1:10 AM

      Forgot about Bradley…another reason to not give Ells a contract of that nature.

  7. downhillrider - Sep 7, 2013 at 4:00 AM

    “most sought after free agent” someone must be friends with boras on twitter. 4 years at around $12-13M a year.

    • pisano - Sep 7, 2013 at 10:14 AM

      downhillrider…..Not near enough to get him signed. This guy will be starting at 15 mil per, and probably go between 15 to 17 per. Swisher couldn’t make a pimple on Ellsbury a$$, and he got four years @ sixty, now who would you rather have?I don’t know what the Yankees will do with Granderson, but if they let him walk, imagine the damage Ellsbury could do in Yankee stadium with that short porch in right field. If Boras is his agent, he’ll go for the throat as far as a big money contract goes. It ought to be interesting.

  8. Walk - Sep 7, 2013 at 5:52 AM

    Offer him most of what he wants and tie the last two years at highest pay to options. One for him and either a team option or mutual option that is automatic and has a bit of a bonus if he stays healthy. Take a four year deal for example for 50 million. Give him 10 mill each of the first two years and he has an opt out on year three but if he plays 120plus games he averaged over first two years he gets 15 million for third year. If he opts out he gets a couple mill buy out. He can take his two mill buy out and try free agency or try resign with sox at his current worth. If he makes it through three years at x number of games year 4 vests at 15 mill. He gets a total of 50 million dollars, red sox get some security and a bit of payroll flexibility for a one year trade if he gets injured. Numbers for games played or at bats and contract are negotiable. I would not mind seeing more contracts like that to give teams a bit more financial flexibility to pick up a one year rental on a high price waiver deal.

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