With another injury in the books and no return in sight for Jacoby Ellsbury, the New York Yankees must now rid themselves of the center fielder.
Washed out. A terrible investment. Injury-prone. A walking disabled-list waste of life.
Each of these terms can be used to describe beleaguered New York Yankees outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury. The veteran missed the entire 2018 season with hip and oblique injuries, and the saga isn’t over yet.
Per manager Aaron Boone in his first press conference of 2019, Ellsbury is dealing with plantar fasciitis. As a result, Ellsbury will keep recovering at his Arizona home and won’t report to Spring Training until March.
“It didn’t make sense for him to come out here at this point,’’ said Cashman, who added the plantar fasciitis popped up again “four or five weeks ago’’ after he began running on an anti-gravity machine.
“Once he’s able to run and move forward from there, he’ll be here,” Cashman said.
Maybe I’m crazy, maybe I’ve had one too many Yankee Tavern chicken parm subs over the years, but this sounds like the Yankees indirectly telling Ellsbury, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”
Hopefully, this is the first step of what the Yankees should have done last season: buy out Jacoby Ellsbury’s albatross of a contract.
A mistake from the get-go
Oh, how we all remember when Jacoby Ellsbury signed a seven-year, $153 million deal on Dec. 3, 2013. You remember, just a few days before Robinson Cano signed his megadeal with the Seattle Mariners and disappointed half of New York.
Well, Ellsbury seemed like a fine idea at the time despite his injury history. He only played in 134 games in 2013 but hit .298 and led the majors with 52 stolen bases.
Two years prior, however, Ellsbury played a full season and finished second in American League MVP voting. He hit .321 with a career-high 32 home runs and 105 RBI, plus 39 steals.
Perhaps the Yankees thought Yankee Stadium’s short right-field porch would help him replicate those numbers in pinstripes.
Sorry, this should probably be mentioned as well. Ellsbury signed this deal right before the Yankees and baseball in general fully embraced analytics. This was before front offices knew how to spot outliers among what to realistically expect.
Well, the Yankees are now learning that lesson the hard way.
Ellsbury hit .271 with 16 homers, 70 RBI, and 39 steals in his first Yankees season, doing just well enough to give everyone some false hope. Since then, he has played in only 371 games while hitting .261 with 23 home runs and 128 RBI, plus 63 steals.
All the while, he has dined on injuries with the ferocity of Cookie Monster.
Now, cut to Ellsbury having $42.2 million in guaranteed money remaining on his deal, plus a $21 million option and $5 million buyout for 2021.
Cashman has himself in a pickle worthy of being served at Katz’s Deli.
No room for Jacoby
One more thing about Jacoby Ellsbury’s contract, folks. It holds a full no-trade clause. Suddenly, it makes sense why he’s lasted this long in the Bronx.
Now, let’s talk about the Yankees’ position in all this. Boone’s outfield is all but set. Not only has Aaron Hicks locked down center field, but all signs point to Brett Gardner manning left with Clint Frazier as the fourth outfielder, or vice versa.
And despite all this, Ellsbury has said he has no plans to ask for a trade. Last year he even voiced how determined he was to win back the starting center fielder’s job.
That ship has since sailed, and Cashman and owner Hal Steinbrenner need to do more than just hope Ellsbury will go away.
Fortunately, there’s a way out.
The buyout meeting
To cut ties with Jacoby Ellsbury, the Yankees need to follow Jerry Seinfeld’s lead when it comes to breakups. Cashman must view it as if he’s taking off a band-aid. One motion, RIGHT OFF!
This means at some point in the future, preferably as soon as possible, Ellsbury needs to be called to Tampa or New York for a meeting. The reason given for it will be to discuss his future with the team.
Now, keep in mind, the optics of the situation as we know it already suggest Cashman has started down this road. Michael Kay even covered this topic earlier this week on his radio show. The Yankees have a great training staff, so why is Ellsbury being asked to rehab at home?
Thus, any meeting between Cashman, Steinbrenner, and Ellsbury needs to be short, blunt, and sweet. Ellsbury will arrive and the usual pleasantries and handshakes will take place. Next, Cashman drops the bomb.
“Jacoby,” he’ll say, “There really isn’t a place for you on the team right now. If you waive your no-trade, we could try and make a deal.”
Now, let’s assume Ellsbury says no to a trade. Cashman will counter that with a simple question.
“Alright, Jacoby, that’s fine. In that case, how much money would it take for us to stick a fork in this and depart as friends and gentlemen?”
It’s really not an outrageous request because Cashman will basically be giving Ellsbury two options. He can either be traded and get a fresh start with another team, or he can be paid to become a free agent and get that same fresh start.
It’s honestly the most respectful way to end things.
Otherwise, the Yankees will have to go the worst route, and this is probably the most likely to happen.
If Jacoby Ellsbury says no to both a trade and a buyout, the Yankees will be best suited by just releasing him and eating the money. Nobody wants that, but better to go that route than keep everyone speculating about Ellsbury’s New York future.
This, baseball fans, is how the Yankees weather the Ellsbury maelstrom. It won’t be a pretty ride, but blue skies wait at its end.
I’ve said it before, and now I’ll say it again.
Your move, Cashman.