Jacoby Ellsbury collected $21.1 million during the 2018 season despite not suiting up past a March 24 Spring Training matchup with the Toronto Blue Jays. Injuries cost him the entire season, and he lost a chance to provide value when the Yankees’ seemingly formidable outfield depth suddenly disappeared from the organization.
With a nagging oblique issue and August 7 hip surgery behind him, Ellsbury’s agent, Scott Boras, told George A. King III of the New York Post that the 35-year-old has his eyes set on Tampa.
“He got the right doctor and the right surgery, and I fully expect him to be ready [for spring training],” Boras said before Game 3 of the World Series, per King.
Ellsbury signed a seven-year, $153 million deal with the Yankees in the 2013 offseason and has hit .264/.330/.386 with 39 home runs and 198 RBI in 520 games across four seasons. If you include missing all of the 2018 regular season, Ellsbury has missed 290 of a possible 810 games since signing in New York. That would be a .358 batting average, but unfortunately that’s not the metric we’re looking at. Missing 36% of your team’s games is just ridiculous for the amount of money he’s being paid.
Ellsbury suffered a concussion May 24, 2017, that setback his season and allowed Aaron Hicks to take over the starting job in center field. Ellsbury’s spot with the Yankees relies on his health in 2019, and the Yankees’ decision with Brett Gardner. Gardner has a pending $12.5 million club option, or $2 million buyout for the 2019 season.
With everyone assumed healthy coming into 2019, the outfield picture will feature Ellsbury, Clint Frazier, Gardner (I think the Yanks decline his option, and bring him back for cheaper), Hicks, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton.
I would imagine Hicks, Judge and Stanton maintain their spots in the outfield/designated hitter rotation from last season. That leaves left field and the fourth outfield spot open to competition, and also assumes the Yankees make no significant offseason moves. Bryce Harper is the sexiest pick to fill the left field spot, though there are also rumblings of a position change for Miguel Andújar that would allow Manny Machado to fit into the puzzle as well.
What’s the simplest thing Ellsbury can do? Show up in Tampa in great shape, and stay healthy in order to help the team. He’s owed a little over $47.2 million through 2021 (assuming the Yankees buy him out), and the Yankees would love to squeeze some value out of him.