This is the Internet, so by now you’ve likely heard that the Yankees signed former Red Sox (gasp!) centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury for seven years and $153 million (with an option for an eighth year). It isn’t the first time the Yankees have signed away an aging Red Sox outfielder, but this contract seems far less agreeable than the one Johnny Damon snagged in 2005.
If you’re familiar with the Yankees, this may come as a surprise. Since George Steinbrenner passed away, the organization has talked a big game about lowering the team’s payroll, and this year had a goal of getting under the $189 million luxury tax threshold. Plus, they’re in the middle of a disastrous ordeal with Alex Rodriguez, the last over-30 guy they signed to a huge, multi-hundred-million dollar contract, and are still in discussions with Robinson Cano. This seems like the wrong time to throw $153 million to a oft-injured speedster who plays the same position as Brett Gardner.
Then again, if you’re familiar with the Yankees, this isn’t a surprise at all. The Yankees missed the postseason last year for just the second time in 19 years, and that put the team into panic mode. Afraid that they’ll be outbid for Cano by the Mariners (or… Mets?), the Yankees clearly wanted to make a splashy signing with upside. Assuming Ellsbury retains his speed until he’s 37 (which, no), and that he’ll stay healthy (which, probably not, based on the last two seasons) and that he can start smacking homers again in homer-friendly Yankee Stadium (which, maybe), this contract won’t look so horrible come 2020.
That being said, if Alex Rodriguez’s 211-game suspension is overturned, the Yankees will already have committed $138 million to 10 players next season. Meanwhile, they still have a bare bones starting rotation, no lights-out closer for the first time since 1995, and question marks at every infield position.
It’s amazing how quickly one season of moderately unsuccessful ball could turn the entire Yankees’ game plan on its head. But when you’re the Yankees, and you lack any type of farm system, and your greatest rival just won its third World Series in a decade, you have to resort to your greatest — read: only — weapon: money.
Then again, the Yankees have said that they wouldn’t sacrifice having a “championship-caliber” team in order to get under the luxury tax. The question is: Is Jacoby Ellsbury a championship-caliber player? Or just a good player who played for a championship team?
Photo via Getty