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Just Say No to Jacoby Ellsbury
- Updated: September 18, 2013
Like spotting an oasis in a barren desert, the end of the 2013 season of Phillies baseball finally appears to be in sight. Former stars declining, terrible relief pitching, poor defense, it has been nothing short of a nightmare for Phillies fans.
So what will GM Ruben Amaro Jr. do to get back in the fans good graces?
Try to sign the biggest free agents available of course.
This is a strategy that is not foreign to this organization. A constant of the past five offseasons, the Phillies have been major players in free agency and the trading market. Through this, the team acquired Roy Halladay (trade), Raul Ibanez (signing), Ben Revere (trade), Cliff Lee (signing), and Jonathan Papelbon.
So who will the Phillies look to sign? Logically, given the terrible shape of the bullpen, the Phillies will likely look to bring in bullpen arms to shore up the worst bullpen in the last two seasons. Also, they will likely look to bring in some starting pitching to shore up the back end (We can do better than Tyler Cloyd, Kyle Kendrick, and John Lannan).
But I expect them to try and pursue Jacoby Ellsbury, outfielder of the Red Sox. Why? Several Reasons:
1. The Phillies will get some payroll flexibility this offseason, and when that usually occurs, they try and go after the biggest names. Ellsbury is one of those names. The Team likes big names than can sell jerseys and t-shirts.
2. The Phillies have three outfielders who all should be playing Left Field. Ben Revere and Darin Ruf are playing out of position in center and right field respectively, and Dom Brown is locked in at left. They all have struggled defensively at various times throughout the season. Ellsbury, on the other hand, is a great defensive Centerfielder and a former Gold Glover. Ellsbury can cover up the defensive short comings of Brown and Ruf.
3. Ellsbury can bat leadoff. He possesses great speed and can steal bases, like most traditional leadoff men. Rollins, the team’s longtime leadoff man, is entering the final year of his contract in 2014, and even he has been mediocre at leadoff.
So, what’s the catch? Why does this article say that they should avoid signing Jacoby Ellsbury? After all, besides the reasons outlined above, he is only two years removed from an amazing 2011 season that saw him finish with a WAR above 8.0 and almost win the AL MVP.
The catch is that Ellsbury has been injury prone, missing almost all of 2010 with broken ribs and half of 2012 with subluxation in the shoulder. This season, he suffered a non-compression fracture in his right foot. It isn’t terribly serious, but it just makes his medical history that much longer. Consider this, for a player who relies on speed, how good will he be three years from now when he starts to break down? His tremendous defense will suffer, and he won’t steal as many bases.
Also, it should be noted that despite factoring in his amazing 2011 season, his career OPS is .789. Not bad, but not great if you expect a large payday.
Did I mention he will command a contract of 6-7 years around 120-140 million dollars? Have these big contracts worked out recently? Look at Albert Pujols, Carl Crawford, and Josh Hamilton. All have struggled with health since signing their big contracts.
Amaro needs to avoid making these big investments. True, the Phillies will eventually be rid of the contracts of Jimmy Rollins, Mike Adams, and Ryan Howard and will have money to burn, but don’t waste payroll space by signing an above average player who is injury prone like Ellsbury. Focus on getting a decent bullpen and getting better starters than Kyle Kendrick. Perhaps spend more dollars and invest in international free agents like the Dodgers. It’s time to build around Darin Ruf, Cody Asche, and Dom Brown.