BOSTON (CBS) — Jacoby Ellsbury is gone, and if you’re the type who can’t stomach the sight of a Red Sox player wearing pinstripes, you’re no doubt having a tough time with the news.
Yet there should be very little doubt that the Boston Red Sox are in no way losers after the seven-year, $153 million mega-signing with the Yankees. Quite the contrary, actually, if you look at what the team got out of Ellsbury and how little they paid for it.
The Red Sox drafted Ellsbury in the first round of the 2005 draft and gave him a $1.4 million signing bonus in 2006. He made his MLB debut in 2007, hitting .353 and going 9-for-9 on stolen base attempts. He took Coco Crisp’s job in the playoffs and batted .438 in the World Series, hitting four doubles and driving in three runs during the Red Sox’ sweep of the Rockies.
Ellsbury made just north of $400,000 in 2008, when he played in 145 games, and he made $450,000 in 2009, when he led the league in both stolen bases (70) and triples (10). Two years later, he finished second in MVP voting while making just $2.4 million. (By contrast, Justin Verlander won the MVP and made $12.85 million that year before his salary went up to $20 million the following season.)
Ellsbury’s contract didn’t get crazy after that ’11 season, as both he and the Red Sox were seemingly OK with going year-to-year until he reached free agency. Ellsbury was paid $8 million in 2012 and $9 million last year.
In total, with all of the time missed due to injury, the Red Sox essentially got five full seasons out of Ellsbury for $22 million … total. So from 2007-13, the Red Sox paid Ellsbury what the Yankees will pay Ellsbury for one year of work, whether he plays in 159 or 12 games. Guaranteed. Until he’s 37 years old.
For the Yankees, it’s not the worst move. Any signing they make must be graded with the understanding that money truly is no object and that contracts in general will continue to get larger as the years go on. So with it being a given that the Yankees shouldn’t expect a great return on the back end of this deal, the fact remains that Ellsbury should be a very solid player in the Yankees outfield for the next three years. He fills a need and, if healthy, should be able to perform. Is he worth $153 million? Of course not, but is he worth $153 million Yankee Dollars? Sure.
If the signing prohibits the Yankees from signing Robinson Cano? Well, then maybe it’s an issue, but again, money is no object. If the Yankees sign both Ellsbury and Cano, it won’t be the least bit surprising.
But from a Boston perspective, there’s not much to do but tip your cap to a man who helped win two championships, and congratulate him for making more money than he’ll ever know how to spend.
Likewise, the organization deserves recognition. The team brought him up at the right time, manager Terry Francona utilized him perfectly in the ’07 World Series, the team got an MVP-caliber season out of him in 2011, and when healthy, he’s been a reliable player. The Red Sox valued him, but they knew better than anyone else that he’s not worth $22 million per season, and so it was time to part ways.
The Red Sox should be applauded for showing exactly what an organization would like to do with a very good player. They drafted him, they brought him through the minors, and they got the best years of his career at an extremely affordable price. If you go back to last winter at this time, many believed Ellsbury’s Red Sox career was going to end in July with a midseason trade away from a last-place team. Instead, it ended in a champagne celebration at Fenway Park.
It was perfect.
This isn’t a case of the Red Sox nickel-and-diming a player they should have kept, and it’s not a case of “betrayal” like it was with Johnny Damon. It was simply a case of a player fortunate enough to be available when the richest team in a salary-cap free league needed him. Good for him — but good for the Red Sox, too.