Dec 4, 2013, 10:47 AM EDT
These huge, later-career deals never turn out great. The best you can hope for when you sign a 30-something baseball player to a hugely expensive long-term deal is that he will have a couple of good years on the front end to boost up his value, have a nice rebound year somewhere in the middle, and not be utterly useless and difficult to deal with at the end.
You can go down the list of players signed longterm after the age of 30 – Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Hamilton, Alfonso Soriano, Vernon Wells, Ryan Howard, Jason Giambi, Ken Griffey Jr., Mike Piazza, on and on — and you will find, over and over, deals that teams regretted t some point or other.
So the Yankees will inevitably regret signing Jacoby Ellsbury to a seven-year, $153 million deal — the real question is when. If they don’t regret the deal until 2018 or 2019 — when Ellsbury is a 35-year old coming to the end of his deal, struggling to stay in center field, constantly battling some nagging injuries — then you would have to say that they should feel pretty good about things. The trouble with these deals is that the regret often happens much earlier than you expect. I’m sure the Angels KNEW they were going to regret the Josh Hamilton deal at some point. I just don’t think they expected it to be the first year.
Ellsbury, when healthy, is a fabulous baseball player. I’ve seen him compared pretty often with Carl Crawford, and Crawford was pretty great as a young player. But I think Ellsbury is an even better player than Crawford was in Tampa Bay. For one thing, he plays centerfield while Crawford played left. They were both superior defenders, but a superb center fielder is quite a bit more valuable than a superb left fielder. Ellsbury also gets on base more and might even be a more potent base stealer (last year, Ellsbury stole 52 bases and was caught just four times all year — Crawford led the league in steals annually but would get thrown out a bit more).
Also, Crawford never had a season like Ellsbury’s 2011, when he hit .321/.376/.552 with 32 homers, 105 runs scored, 119 RBIs and 39 stolen bases (though that year he was caught a lot — 15 times).
Then again Crawford was also much more durable than Ellsbury. From 2003 to 2010, Crawford played 140-plus games every year but one, and even in the year he was hampered by injuries he played 109 games. Ellsbury meanwhile has had two of the last four seasons destroyed by injuries — he played just 18 games in 2010, just 74 games in 2012. Nobody can say if those injuries project anything for the future but they are part of his history.
The Yankees have so much money — and so much money on the line — they figure he’s worth the risk. I can see their point. If the Royals or Mariners or Brewers or some team like that had given Jacoby Ellsbury a seven-year, $153 million deal, you could say without any hesitation that they had lost their minds. That’s exactly the sort of deal that can paralyze a smaller franchise for a half-decade.
But the Yankees are a different category. The Yankees in that too-big-to-fail category — they have money on top of money, and they are constantly aware that if they put a losing and uninteresting team on the field, everything crashes. Nobody buys their absurdly high-priced tickets. Fewer people watch their cash cow Yes Network. The back page of the Post and Daily News looks elsewhere. The Yankees brand — the most lucrative in America — starts to devalue a little bit and then a little bit more and … they just can’t let that happen. Money, they have. Wins, they need.
And so the Yankees are playing a different game. If they get even one superstar year and maybe a couple of good years from Ellsbury, they will probably be pretty happy.
How good a bet is Ellsbury to have one more season like he did in 2011? I’m not sure. That was an unusual power surge from a player who has never hit double-digit homers any other year. Then again, that’s a very short porch in right field at New Yankee Stadium.
Truth is, we can spend a lot of time trying to compare Ellsbury to other players — his Baseball Reference comps of Phil Bradley, Tony Gonzalez and Roberto Kelly do not strike an encouraging note — but it’s hard to find many players like Ellsbury in baseball history. He stole 70 bases in a season. He hit 30 home runs in a season. There’s only one other player in baseball history who pulled off those two feats in a career, Eric Davis. And he had a rebirth in his mid-30s, even while battling colon cancer.
My gut instinct is that it will work out for the Yankees. But I say this in part because things always seem to work out for the Yankees.
I can say this with more confidence: If the Mariners sign Robinson Cano … that won’t work out.
Jul 12, 2014, 6:25 PM EDT
The Pirates added some relief depth, signing Rafael Perez to a minor league deal on Saturday.
Jul 12, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT
A pair of neck surgeries limited Nolan Reimold to just 56 games between 2012-2013 and now he’s dealing with a calf strain.
Jul 12, 2014, 4:29 PM EDT
White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez was forced to exit this afternoon’s game against the Indians in the top of the fourth inning due to back stiffness.
Jul 12, 2014, 4:14 PM EDT
Reds first baseman Joey Votto has received platelet-rich plasma injections in an effort to get past his lingering quad injury.
Jul 12, 2014, 3:02 PM EDT
This is the first All-Star selection for Henderson Alvarez.
Jul 12, 2014, 2:01 PM EDT
The Pirates are focused on adding pitching in advance of the July non-waiver trade deadline.
Jul 12, 2014, 1:08 PM EDT
Jean Segura has returned to his native Dominican Republic following the death of his nine-month-old son yesterday.
Jul 12, 2014, 12:20 PM EDT
Brandon Phillips underwent surgery yesterday to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb and now the Reds will be without one of the potential options to fill in at second base.
Jul 12, 2014, 11:36 AM EDT
There’s increasing evidence that Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton is not of this world.
Jul 12, 2014, 10:53 AM EDT
Jake Odorizzi will move up in the rotation to start this afternoon. The hope is that Price will feel well enough to pitch tomorrow.
Jul 12, 2014, 10:22 AM EDT
The previous record was held by Hall of Famer Bruce Sutter, who went 39 consecutive appearances with a strikeout in 1977.
Jul 12, 2014, 9:38 AM EDT
At the very least, Jordan Zimmermann will not be able to pitch in the All-Star Game next week. His availability beyond that is up in the air.
Jul 12, 2014, 8:56 AM EDT
A quick recap of a busy Friday around MLB, including another loss for the Brewers.
Jul 11, 2014, 11:05 PM EDT
The AL Roster swaps one injured Tiger for a healthy one. Ian Kinsler will replace Victor Martinez.
Jul 11, 2014, 10:35 PM EDT
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle doesn’t expect Gerrit Cole to return to the club shortly after the All-Star break.
Jul 11, 2014, 9:50 PM EDT
Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy will start for the NL All-Stars after all. Miguel Montero makes the roster, taking the place of the injured Yadier Molina.
Jul 11, 2014, 9:09 PM EDT
Marco Scutaro could make his 2014 debut on Friday night off of the bench. He will be inserted into the starting lineup on Saturday.
Jul 11, 2014, 8:45 PM EDT
Mark Trumbo has returned to the Diamondbacks a little sooner than anticipated.
Jul 11, 2014, 7:50 PM EDT
Michael Saunders is out with a strained oblique, and Justin Smoak is back in the major leagues after a stint at Triple-A.
Jul 11, 2014, 6:55 PM EDT
More than a month after going on the disabled list with a left finger injury, Carlos Gonzalez returns to the Rockies lineup for Friday’s game against the Twins.
- Reds hope to get Joey Votto back for the “stretch run” 4
- Jean Segura leaves Brewers following the death of his nine-month-old son 41
- Settling the Score: Friday’s results 29
- Rangers catcher Geovany Soto arrested for marijuana possession 62
- Babe Ruth made his major league debut 100 years ago today 50
- Rockies owner: “maybe Denver doesn’t deserve a franchise . . . maybe time for it to find a new home” 80
- And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights 33
- Masahiro Tanaka diagnosed with partially-torn UCL in elbow 114
- Shocker: the Red Sox publicly criticize A.J. Pierzynski after cutting him (191)
- John Lackey on Nelson Cruz: “Not even going to comment … I’ve got nothing to say about him” (143)
- Masahiro Tanaka diagnosed with partially-torn UCL in elbow (114)
- The 2014 All-Star rosters have been announced (103)
- Giants broadcaster says Angel Hernandez “does not belong in the big leagues” (102)