Bye Bye, Jacoby

It's time to trade Jacoby Ellsbury

Jacoby Ellsbury (Photo: Samara Pearlstein)

After the disaster that was the end of September 2011 and the entirety of the 2012 season, it’s time for the Boston Red Sox to try to figure out how to improve the team. General Manager Ben Cherington realized that the team needed a change, which led to the August trade of Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto to the Dodgers for James Loney, Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa, Jerry Sands and Ivan De Jesus Jr. The next move for the Red Sox should be to trade Jacoby Ellsbury.

Drafted in the first round of the 2005 draft, Ellsbury took over in center field in Boston late in the 2007 season. He placed 3rd in the Rookie of the Year voting in 2008, posting a .280/.336/.394 triple-slash line with 50 steals and a UZR of an astounding 21.2. However, Ellsbury’s wRC+ for 2008 was a slightly below average 98. Ellsbury improved across the board in 2009, putting up a line of .301/.355/.415, .354 wOBA, 108 wRC+, with an amazing 70 steals. However, Ellsbury’s UZR dropped precipitously to an ugly -9.7 (this may say more about vagaries of defensive statistics than it does of Ellsbury’s defense).

However, 2010 brought disaster. On April 12, 2010, Ellsbury collided with Adrian Beltre. Ellsbury would suffer cracked ribs, from which he slowly recovered. Ellsbury was criticized for not coming back quicker than he did. He returned to the lineup in August, reinjured his ribs in a fall, and his season was over.

Ellsbury returned in a big way in 2011. Ellsbury hit .321/.376/.552, .402 wOBA, 150 wRC+, with 39 steals and a UZR of 15.6. Ellsbury was selected to the All-Star game, placed second to Justin Verlander in the AL MVP voting, and won the Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger awards.

There was a lot of promise for Ellsbury coming into 2012, but on April 13 (the home opener), Ellsbury separated his shoulder while trying to break up a double play. Ellsbury would play only 74 games in 2012, posting a line of .271/.313/.370, .305 wOBA, 86 wRC+, with 14 steals and a UZR of 0.2. For his career in Boston, Ellsbury has hit .297/.349/.442, .355 wOBA, 114 wRC+, 189 steals, a UZR/150 of 8.9 and a total rWAR of 14.4 (18.4 fWAR). For this production, Ellsbury has made $11,802,000.

The problem for the Red Sox with respect to Ellsbury is two-fold. First and foremost is Ellsbury’s salary for 2013. Ellsbury will be arbitration-eligible for the second straight year. In his first year of arbitration, Ellsbury’s salary went from $2,400,000 in 2011 to $8,050,000 in 2012. Ellsbury will almost certainly get a raise in arbitration for 2013, although perhaps not at the pace of his last arbitration raise. It would be very surprising if his 2013 salary were less than $10,000,000.

Second, and maybe more importantly, Ellsbury’s contract expires after the 2013 season and he is represented by Scott Boras. Even if the Red Sox wanted to re-sign Ellsbury to a long-term deal (which may not be the case), Boras may advise against it. Boras is known for advising his clients who reach this stage in their contracts to go into free agency to attempt to maximize their next contractual payout. Additionally, Boras’s people should already be writing one of his infamous “binders” that proves that any player that he represents is the second coming of Babe Ruth (pitcher and hitter), Mickey Mantle, Mohandas K. Gandhi and Alexander the Great rolled into one.

Instead of losing Ellsbury after the 2013 season with nothing but an extra 2014 draft pick to show for it, the Red Sox should trade Ellsbury during this offseason. Granted, trading Ellsbury now wouldn’t be the classic case of “selling high.” But with Ellsbury’s injury history, the Red Sox cannot take a chance to wait for the July 31, 2013 trading deadline to trade him, as they may not get as much in return as they would get if they traded him during this offseason. And if Ellsbury gets injured in 2013, the Sox wouldn’t be able to trade him at all.

Trading Ellsbury now would make sense for the Red Sox if they are serious in getting back to the “player development machine” that produced Ellsbury in the first place. With the rules for free agency having changed where it is not as easy to stockpile draft picks for losing free agents as it was before, the best way to restock a farm system with top prospects is to trade for them. Ellsbury may not fetch an Elvis Andrus as he might have following his stellar 2011 season, but Jacoby could fetch two or more top prospects in a trade this off-season. As far as replacing Ellsbury in Boston, a combination of Che-Hsuan Lin and a call up for super prospect Jackie Bradley could be sufficient for the bridge year that 2013 portends to be for the Boston Red Sox.

Categories: Adrian Beltre Adrian Gonzalez Allen Webster Babe Ruth Ben Cherington Boston Red Sox Carl Crawford Che-Hsuan Lin Elvis Andrus Ivan De Jesus Jackie Bradley Jacoby Ellsbury James Loney Jerry Sands Josh Beckett Justin Verlander Los Angeles Dodgers Mickey Mantle Nick Punto Rubby de la Rosa Scott Boras

Scott Candage is a long-time Red Sox fan. He recently came in third in the 127th annual Upperclass Twit of the Year competition. His best friend is a tree and he is a stockbroker in his spare time.

12 Responses to “Bye Bye, Jacoby” Subscribe

  1. Jody October 6, 2012 at 8:09 AM #

    The Sox should wait until they can get their hands on a binder to trade him. Then they could probably get Buster Posey and Profar for him.

  2. Adam October 6, 2012 at 11:56 AM #

    I love the idea of giving Lin a shot to shine in Boston. Even if he is a decidedly below average hitter at the big league level, his scouting reports indicate that he can put up at lease a 2.0 WAR season defensively.

  3. Walt in Maryland October 7, 2012 at 9:44 AM #

    Lin can't hit. And if this team is serious about playing Iglesias regularly, you can't have those two bats in the same lineup.

    On Ellsbury, I agree that he won't be on the Red Sox in 2013. However, it only makes sense to trade him this winter if they get enough in return. Bookending his tremendous 2011 season are two years that were virtualy lost to injury. And any team trading for Ellsbury will want some degree of confidence it will be able to sign him when he hits free agency.

    There is no doubt: he WILL go to free agency. That's what Boras clients do.

    He'll get a little over $10 million next season, I'd estimate. That won't concern the Sox at all; they have all the financial flexibility in the world right now. But their best play might be to keep Ellsbury, hope he puts up big numbers in his walk year, and then collect the draft picks when he leaves.

    To me that makes a lot more sense than trading him when his value is low.

  4. @johncate73 October 7, 2012 at 12:04 PM #

    If Iglesias plays every day for the Red Sox in 2013, that means nothing except that the Red Sox have punted the season before it even starts. His offense will be so far below replacement level that he couldn't possibly make it up with the glove. The guy is a Latin Nick Punto–at best. He shouldn't play anywhere but Pawtucket in 2013 unless there's an injury.

    As for Ellsbury, I agree with Walt. He's not going to sign an extension before free agency, because Boras guys don't do that. And you might not want him to anyway; he's not played anything like he did in 2011 at any other time in his career, and you're going to pay for him like he's that player. And you're going to get a first-round draft pick for him if he walks, regardless. The Red Sox have had good luck with compensation picks–Ellsbury himself was the payoff on one.

    I look at it this way. Ellsbury is likely to have a good year in his walk year. Most Boras clients do. He might be worth 5 WAR to the 2013 Red Sox, and then he walks and you get the draft pick, which means you draft a top prospect of your choosing. I presume the Red Sox are going to try to assemble a winning team in 2013. Ellsbury might be the difference between 85 wins and 90, which might be the difference between an also-ran and the second wild-card.

    If you trade him now, you might get two decent prospects for him. But you're getting two minor-leaguers that another organization considers expendable. The really, really good prospects don't get traded–for example, the Red Sox might trade Bogaerts, Bradley or Rubby de la Rosa for King Felix, but nobody else. If you keep him, you get the value and benefit of a good center fielder for one more season, and then you get to choose a prospect of you own choosing. And you open 2014 with Bradley in center field, which I'm confident will work out just fine.

  5. Luke October 10, 2012 at 1:25 PM #

    Package Ellsbury in a deal with Bard, Buchholz, and Iglesias for Justin Upton and Ian Kennedy from Arizona

  6. Walt in Maryland October 10, 2012 at 2:06 PM #

    I see John's point on Igllesias — he might never hit — but I don't think they're necessarily punting the season if he plays shortstop.

    No question he hit miserably this year. The question is whether he'll EVER hit enough to play regularly. I think it might be worth taking a season to find out.

    If he wasn't a shortstop, we're not having this conversation. If he was merely an above-average defensive shortstop, same thing. But by all accounts, including the small sample size of major league stats we have, Iglesias is an ELITE defensive shortstop.

    It's the most important defensive position on the field, and perhapsthe only place where an elite defender can save enough runs to offset a weak bat.

    A couple of things to keep in mind. At 22, Iglesias was among the youngest players in Triple A last year. Second, as Gammons has noted, Ozzie Smith and Omar Vizquel didn't hit much better than Iglesias did when THEY were 22.

    At some point, he MUST hit better to remain a starter. But I think the Sox should give him a little more time to improve.

    • @johncate73 October 10, 2012 at 2:33 PM #

      I'm all in favor of giving him more time to improve with the bat. But let him work on it at Pawtucket. You can't afford to carry a non-hitter in an American League lineup. When Smith and Vizquel came up, they were both on bad teams that didn't have any chance to win, and could afford to carry a .200 hitter for a year or two because they were going to lose anyway.

      The Red Sox were a bad team in 2012, but part of that was due to injuries and long-term decisions by management (the Dodger trade), and there's no reason the Red Sox can't get back over .500 next year.

      Another reason you shouldn't carry such a terrible hitter if you have any better alternative is that they don't always improve. Mario Mendoza was in the same class defensively, and he was a terrible hitter from the day he arrived in the big leagues until the day he left. A year ago, I said that Middlebrooks and Iglesias had a 10 percent chance of becoming Matt Williams and Ozzie Smith. Today, I'd say that Middlebrooks' chances are much higher, and Iglesias is still where he was.

  7. Walt in Maryland October 10, 2012 at 3:08 PM #

    Good point on Iglesias, but who plays shortstop in the meantime? And how great a hitter do you expect that place-holder to be?

    You might want to take a look at the runs-scored trends in baseball. There are a LOT fewer runs being scored in the A.L. (and N.L.) than there were 10 years ago. Pitching and defense are back in vogue. In fact, they should be viewed together, not separately. Playing Iglesias at shortstop immediately improves the Red Sox' pitching.

    I fully expect a record over .500 next year, with or without Iglesias at short. They don't have a better option available right now — please don't say Aviles — and I'm opposed to spending resources to get a short-term guy who likely will field worse and hit only a little better than Iglesias.

    A bigger dilemma will face the Sox when Bogaerts is ready for the big leagues, and that could be as soon as next September. If he's able to stay at shortstop — a big if at this point — that's it for Iglesias.

    • Gerry October 10, 2012 at 5:32 PM #

      Good point. If Iglesias is a game changing defender, as he proved himself to be in his rookie cup of coffee at age 22, then allowing him to prove himself is vital to the team. Iglesias was hitting much better in his last two weeks, a repeated pattern as he also started adjusteing to better pitching in AA and AAA during his rapid rise and, as Arnie Beyeler said, he was again barreling up the ball very well before his callup. To tar him with the Mendoza brush at this point is neither fair nor practical, and even Beyeler believes he is ready for the Show.

      IF he can hit even a bit, then his glove makes him a core player, friend of pitchers and bane of opposing teams. IF he can hit then his glove is so good even Bogaerts should not displace him, which means Bogaerts may be the next Williams/Yaz/Rice/Manny in LF or Youk/Gonzo at 1B. That would be a two-fer, a huge win, made possible only by giving him his chance now. IMHO the Sox would be wise to see what Iggy can do in 2013 at Fenway. I for one will pay to see him play, and to see how he, PD and WMB work together.

      Finally, replacing him with Drew is a poor quick fix for big $$. A waste of Iggy's opportunity. Replacing him with Andrus dooms Iglesias, also moves Bogaerts off SS, and makes Marrero et al trade bait. So much for building internally. Let the additional big bats come from Choo or Napoli or Davis or Youk.

      • Gerry November 2, 2012 at 11:13 AM #

        This is a good thread worth extending as both Aviles and Lin are now gone and Papi and Ross are not sure things. We will know more on Saturday. Assuming Papi signs and Ross leaves for more $$ and years, The Sox will need to sign TWO corner OF and hang on to Ells (yay!) for his strong CF defense, very good to elite bat, and the aggressive pressure Farrell wants. (IMO he helps the Sox to 90W or brings the same level trade in July or a pick next year, for $10M. Win, win, win.). Scew Borassss. Meanwhile, while Iglesias' helps the pitching staff return to excellence and gets a true chance to hit, both Bradley and Bogaerts are readying for 2014 in some capacity. More win, win, win. A

        because of the relative stability by Ells and Iggy, the Sox can spend prospects and cash wisely and carefully to fill the holes that NEED filling at 1B, LF, RF and SP. Ells, Iggy, WMB, Lava, Kalish, Ciriaco are all good bets for to enhance the core and 4-5 new signings for 2013.

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