Jacoby Ellsbury, a member of the Colorado River Indian Tribes and is Navajo, one of the four tribes in CRIT.
By David Waldstein The New York Times
December 3, 2013
When the Yankees signed Johnny Damon away from the Boston Red Sox in 2006 — two years after he helped them beat the Yankees and win the World Series — it was a coup. Damon provided the Yankees with speed on the bases and home run power from the left side of the plate, and he helped them win a championship in 2009.
Seven years later, the Yankees are hoping to follow the same script by bringing in another gifted former Red Sox center fielder. On Tuesday night, they were close to signing Jacoby Ellsbury, who helped Boston win its third World Series title in 10 years this October and second since he joined the team, to a seven-year, $153 million deal.
Ellsbury was flying to New York from Phoenix on Tuesday night to take a physical, according to two people involved in the discussions who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the matter.
He would play center field, and Brett Gardner would move to a corner spot or possibly be used in a trade.
With the addition of Ellsbury, who turned 30 on Sept. 11, the Yankees would still have money to bring back Robinson Cano and stay under their stated goal of $189 million for their payroll. However, Cano would have to accept the club’s current price of seven years and about $170 million to $175 million. The Yankees offered Cano seven years for about $160 million and seemed unfazed Tuesday by reports that he was talking to the Seattle Mariners, who have been trying for years to add offense.
Ellsbury was only one component of a dizzying few days in baseball. Several trades, free-agent deals and general hot-stove buzz made it seem as if next week’s winter meetings had already begun.
The Red Sox also came to terms on a one-year deal for catcher A. J. Pierzynski, who is just the type of antagonizing player who could stoke the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry.
The Yankees are also talking to the free-agent outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, who, like Ellsbury and Damon, is represented by Scott Boras, but their preference was Ellsbury.
Last month, the Yankees signed the free-agent catcher Brian McCann, who agreed to a five-year, $85 million deal Nov. 23.
The Mariners are also interested in Carlos Beltran, according to a National League executive who has spoken to the team about its plans. Seattle may be willing to offer Beltran four years, but he was in Kansas City, Mo., on Tuesday, visiting with the Royals, his first team, and could also end up in Boston or Texas on a three-year deal.
The Yankees have interest in Beltran, too, but do not want to give him three years, and two years will probably not be enough to get him.
Limiting the number of years on free-agent contracts has been a priority for the Yankees and many other teams, too. The burden of Alex Rodriguez’s 10-year contract and the evidence of long-term mistakes with Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, Ryan Howard and Prince Fielder have made teams wary of committing similar costly blunders.
If the Yankees bring back Cano, it could mean they will not have enough money to add a free-agent pitcher other than Hiroki Kuroda, who is deciding whether to come back to the Yankees.
Kuroda was concerned last year, amid the talk about the Yankees trying to keep their payroll less than $189 million for luxury tax purposes, that the team might not be competitive in 2014, but their aggressive pursuit of McCann and Ellsbury demonstrates their resolve.
Ellsbury was a key figure during his seven years in Boston, playing center field and batting leadoff since he came up as a rookie in 2007, hitting .353 in 33 regular-season games and .438 in his first World Series.
A career .297 hitter with a .353 on-base percentage, Ellsbury is one of the more dynamic players in baseball, combining speed and power. His wins above replacement, a statistic designed to show a players value over a typical replacement player, was 5.8 last year and 8.1 in 2011, perhaps his finest season.
He finished second to Justin Verlander in the American League Most Valuable Player award voting in 2011 after he hit .321 with 364 total bases, 32 homers, 105 runs batted in, 119 runs, 46 doubles and 39 stolen bases — a breathtaking display of all-around productivity. Injuries have been a problem at times, with rib cage and shoulder problems limiting him to 18 games in 2010 and 74 in 2012. But even at the ages of 29 and 30 in 2013, he still managed to lead the A.L. in stolen bases with 52, the third time he topped that category. He also led the league with 10 triples in 2009.
In 38 postseason games, he has batted .301, including .325 in 10 World Series games with a .386 O.B.P.
Other than in 2011, he never hit more than nine home runs, but the Yankees envision his power numbers rising with the short porch in right field, always inviting to left-handed hitters like Ellsbury and McCann.
With Curtis Granderson all but gone, the Yankees needed to shore up their outfield. What better way to do it than to take a good player away from the Red Sox? It’s worked before, and more than once.
General managers, agents and players are not waiting idly for the big industry convention in Florida next week. In the last few days, the off-season action heated up significantly, with teams making trades and offering contracts to free agents at a dizzying pace.
Word filtered out Monday that the Detroit Tigers had traded starting pitcher Doug Fister to the Washington Nationals for three players in a deal that had many general managers scratching their heads.
On Tuesday, the Tampa Bay Rays added a relief pitcher and a catcher by acquiring closer Heath Bell from the Arizona Diamondbacks and catcher Ryan Hanigan from the Cincinnati Reds in a three-team deal. The Houston Astros picked up center fielder Dexter Fowler from the Colorado Rockies for the right-handed pitcher Jordan Lyles and outfielder Brandon Barnes.
The Oakland Athletics announced that they had traded outfielder Seth Smith to the San Diego Padres for the right-handed pitcher Luke Gregerson.
The free-agent market, stirred up first by the Yankees, was percolating, too. Closer Joe Nathan was said to be nearing a deal with the Tigers, which may explain why they needed to trade Fister, to shed the money to sign Nathan. Detroit has been desperate to add a closer.
Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia was closing in on a three-year deal with the Miami Marlins after his successful tenure with the Red Sox.