Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Jacoby Ellsbury Signing Thoughts & Afterthoughts

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I was shocked when the Yankees came out and signed Brian McCann.  Shocked.  I thought that was the one spot they'd be willing to take a hit and stick with their internal crew as they worked through their roster revamp plan this offseason.  Well they didn't and they surprisingly got him at basically market value.

I was absolutely blown away (BLOOOWHOA-WHOA-WHOA-OOOOOWN!!!!!!!) when the story of the Jacoby Ellsbury signing first broke last night.  I knew the Yanks had been in contact with him but I really thought he was their 3rd option behind Beltran and Choo.  With a speedy, low-power outfielder already on their roster, I didn't expect them to seriously go after another one and I definitely didn't expect them to give out the kind of deal they did to get Ellsbury.

My initial reaction to the deal was one of dislike.  I didn't like the years, I didn't like the money, I didn't like the lack of power, and I didn't like the spotty injury history tacked onto the length of the deal.  Now that I've had some time to think, consider, talk to people, read some other takes, and think some more, I think this is a move I can actually get on board with.

The Ellsbury-Cano-Boras Connection

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(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

A little over 7 months ago, Robinson Cano decided that Scott Boras wasn't the right fit for him heading into free agency.  He ditched Boras and signed on with the then newly created Roc Nation Sports firm headed up by Jay-Z.  Last night, Boras got a 7-year/$153 million contract for one of his other clients, Jacoby Ellsbury, and he got it from the Yankees.  It's the 3rd highest contract ever given to a free agent outfielder and it comes with an option for an 8th year that could bring the total value to $169 million.

To be honest, I still don't know how I feel about the Ellsbury signing.  At first glance I'm not a fan of the years or the dollars but I'm smart enough to recognize how great he's been when he's been healthy.  I need a few more hours awake today to really put all my thoughts together on how this fits from a baseball perspective.  The one thing that does keep rattling around in my head right now is what the Ellsbury signing means for Cano.  It certainly doesn't him off the table for the Yanks.  They still have plenty of money to spend right now, as shown by Mike E. last night, and I still firmly believe Cano will re-sign with them.  If you'll allow me to put on my Jim Garrison hat for a few minutes, here's my quick little theory on how this move to sign Ellsbury could actually be a part of the Yankees' strategy with Cano.

Wednesday Morning Food For Thought

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Jacoby Ellsbury is a passed physical away from becoming the starting center fielder for the Yankees.  The team has stated they have no intention of trading Brett Gardner and the assumption if they don't is that he'll shift back to left field in 2014.  With Ichiro Suzuki in right, that would give the Yankees arguably the best defensive starting outfield in baseball.

But what if they don't keep Ichiro in right?  What if the addition of Ellsbury signals that Ichiro is now expendable and possibly tradeable?  The Yankees have 2 left-handed speed OFers now in Ellsbury and Gardner, they have 2 righties in Soriano and Wells, and they have switch-hitting Zoilo around for further bench depth.  If there's any kind of market out there for Ichiro, which is not to say there is or should be based on his last 2 years of production, the Yankees could try to move him and at least some of his salary and go with Soriano as the right fielder/part time DH.

There are still moves that can be made before that to help manage 40-man roster issues as the Yankees continue to add pieces, but it wouldn't surprise me at all to see Ichiro get shopped around, if for no other reason than to see if there's any interest out there.

Report: Yanks Close To Signing Kelly Johnson

They didn't stop after signing McCann and it doesn't appear as though they're even slowing down after signing Jacoby Ellsbury last night.  Via Joel Sherman, the Yankees are "close" to signing free agent utility man Kelly Johnson to a 1-year deal worth about $3 million.

Johnson, 31 and turning 32 before the start of next season, is a lefty bat with a .253/.335/.427 career slash line (.335 wOBA).  While his offensive numbers have been down the last 3 years from their early peak, he still offers pretty good on-base skills for a guy who hits for low average and has some pop (.174 career ISO).  His primary position is second base but he has experience on the infield and outfield corners and he handled himself well at third for the Rays this past season.

According to Sherman's report, the Yankees plan to use Johnson in multiple positions and as a potential starting second base option if they don't re-sign Robinson Cano.  As a lefty bench guy with pop, I like this move a lot, especially if it means Johnson gets most of his time at third.  As a replacement for Robbie, I wouldn't be a fan.  I still think the team's primary goal is bringing him back and using Johnson in that utility role.