As the New York Yankees continues to add more outfielders to the 40-man roster, there remains one $68 million question mark that looms over the winter. That would be the money that is owed to center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury over the next three years.
Since coming to the Bronx in December 2013, the 34-year-old has not lived up to the expectations that Yankees fans had for him. Ellsbury has been a .264 career hitter in New York and has been under 25 stolen bases in each of the last three years. Its also been a rough time for him in terms of not getting to play in big games.
Back in 2015, the Yankees decided to bench him in the Wild Card game against the Astros. Then, in last year’s postseason, he only played in two of the seven ALCS games against the Astros and was 0-for-8 in the ALDS against the Indians.
With Aaron Hicks and Brett Gardner expected to play center field and Giancarlo Stanton now part of the outfield plans, there’s no place for Ellsbury to get significant playing time. However, he has the no-trade clause and he can decide whether he wants to go somewhere else or stay in the Bronx.
If Ellsbury decides to waive his no-trade clause, New York is going to have to take on most of the contract and they might have to part with a prospect. Ken Rosenthal of MLB Network and The Athletic pointed out on Monday:
One way for #Yankees to trade Ellsbury, assuming he will waive no-trade: Attach quality prospects. New team effectively would “buy” the prospects to take on negotiated percentage of Ellsbury’s contract: $21.1M through ‘20, plus $5M buyout for ‘21.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 11, 2017
Now, New York did something like this on Tuesday when they dealt Bryan Mitchell to the Padres as they sent over Chase Headley’s entire contract. However, for a team to take on Ellsbury’s deal, it is going to take a lot more than Mitchell and it could have an impact on the overall farm system.
For a team to take on part of the deal, it shouldn’t be a surprise if New York has to give up a Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield, or someone of that caliber. If that had to happen, that’s one less trade chip that can help the team add another top-tier starting pitcher onto the major league roster.
If Ellsbury is with the Yankees at spring training in February, it has the chance to be very awkward for the franchise since he doesn’t have a role on the team. Plus, his agent is Scott Boras, so there’s always that dynamic as well.
The Yankees couldn’t have predicted the Ellsbury contract would be this much of an albatross or that they might have to part with a very good prospect if they were able to trade him. However, this team has depth in the system to make a trade that they didn’t have four years ago.
New York got to see first-hand the power of a no-trade clause when they got Stanton. Now, they are at the other end of the spectrum when it comes to Ellsbury. This is where Brian Cashman will need to be creative and pull off another good offseason move.