Objectively, Jacoby Ellsbury signing with the New York Yankees isn’t surprising. Shocking? Absolutely. Heck, some grammatically challenged Red Sox fans felt obligated to call Ellsbury a “trader” on twitter. But as sure as the the sun will rise in the east and set in the west, the Yankees will sign premier free agents to massive contracts. Such is the nature of life. But I’m not here to address whether the signing was a some kind of betrayal or fiscally responsible or gluttonous, just how it effects Ellsbury’s fantasy value for next year. Let’s do that.

First, we should establish what Ellsbury was last season: a fantasy monster. He stole 52 bases, scored 92 runs and batted .298. Even though he hit just 9 home runs and drove in 53, at the end of the year he was still a top 10 fantasy performer in standard scoring leagues. If your league requires a centerfielder then he was even more valuable. Regardless of what team he signed with this offseason, he was going to be an early pick next season. Before we get into that, let’s address a couple of questions that come with Ellsbury down I-95 to the Bronx.

The two questions that generally arise are about his power and his health. Will the 30 plus home run power return? Can he be expected to play in 150 games a year? Both are fair questions that don’t have neat and tidy answers. We’ll address the latter first.

Yes, Ellsbury has missed the majority of two of the last four seasons. Generally speaking a player that missed that many games would be rightfully dubbed an injury risk or fragile and wouldn’t get the contract that Jacoby Ellsbury just got. But those injuries were caused by other players temporarily making baseball a contact sport. I don’t think it’s fair to call Ellsbury injury-prone because Adrian Beltre ran into him and Reid Brignac landed on top of him. When large men collide at high speeds their insides will occasionally break and subluxate and dislocate. Don’t blame Ellsbury for his injuries, blame physics.

Then there’s the power. He had it once, but I can’t sit here and project he’ll hit 30 bombs next season. If he does that he’s a top three fantasy player. I do believe his power will increase, and yes, that short right porch in Yankee Stadium is the main reason why. If you look at Ellsbury’s HitTracker home run chart from last season, you’ll see that all nine of his home runs were pulled to right. If you look at Fangraphs’ handy handedness park factor page, you’ll see that in 2013 Yankee Stadium was the second best park for left handed batters to hit home runs, while Fenway Park was sixth from the bottom. If you were looking for the ideal park for Ellsbury to hit home runs, it’s probably Yankee Stadium. We should also factor in that Ellsbury is another year removed from his shoulder injury. While his 2013 performance is a good baseline to work off for our 2014 expectations, the power could reemerge due to better health.

So what should we expect next year? I think a .300 average with 15-20 home runs, 40 stolen bases, 95 runs and 65 RBI is reasonable. I believe Ellsbury will be fantastic in the areas he can control, but his runs and RBI could take a dip because of the lineup he’s in. Yes, he’ll be batting ahead of Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter and Alfonso Soriano, but it’s not 2005 anymore. The Yankees scored only 650 runs last season, 16th in baseball, and their lineup will be one of the oldest trotted out next season. If Robinson Cano isn’t re-signed, the Yankees may struggle to score, despite adding Ellsbury.

Right now Ellsbury looks like a first round pick in standard 12 team leagues. He might single-handedly win you steals, and if the expected power increase comes, he could be a four category asset that won’t hurt you in the fifth. If you’re worried about his health then you should get better things to worry about. He’s going to be hit for average and steal a ton of bases and some balls that were outs last season will be dingers next season. And the world can always use a few more dingers.

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Jason A. Churchill

Churchill founded Prospect Insider in 2006 after getting his start at InsidethePark.com. He spent several years covering prep, college and pro sports for various newspapers, including The News Tribune and Seattle PI. Jason spent 4 1/2 years at ESPN and two years at CBS Radio prior to joining HERO Sports in July, 2016. Find Jason's Mariners podcast, Baseball Things, right here and follow him on Twitter @ProspectInsider.

25 Comments

  1. McGehee no thanks…

  2. Seriously? Why does everything have to be a personal, super intense argument with you, Edman? You can have a discussion about baseball without being an asshole.

  3. Actually there is another option from Japan. Infielder Casey McGehee, who contributed in leading the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles to their first Japan Series championship this season, has been granted a release, the commissioner’s office said Tuesday. McGehee was among the commissioner’s list of protected players retaining negotiating rights for next year, but the team has granted him a release since the 31-year-old Californian is contemplating a return to the major leagues. The Eagles plan to continue talks with McGehee and have already proposed sweetening the offer with a substantial pay raise in a multiyear deal.
    Hiroshi Abei, the Eagles’ scout in charge of signing foreign players, said he received a phone call from McGehee’s agent early on Tuesday morning. “We accepted his request because that’s what he desires,” said Abei. Should McGehee decide to continue playing in Japan, he has said he would like to remain with the Eagles. In his first year in Japan, the former New York Yankees player who spent most of his time at third base with the Eagles hit a team-high 28 home runs with 93 RBIs in all 144 games. Source: Japan Times

  4. Tanaka will be eligible for free agency after two more seasons with the Golden Eagles. They agreed to the $20M cap along with all of the other NPB teams.

  5. I understand what the cost for Price is and it’s more the just Walker straight up. But even if it was Walker for Price straight up, it’s a bad trade. Walker is team controlled for the next 6 years. Price is 20 million a year for the next two years and then he walks. Price isn’t staying in Seattle to play for a mediocre to sub mediocre team. As you said Edman, if we needed one front line starter to become a contender, then I would think differently, but we are far far far from being a contender. Price maybe makes us win another 5 games next year, so we go from a 71 win team to a 76 win team and punt the best young pitcher in the game who is cost controlled for another 6 years.

    The reason you hold on to guys like Walker is because in two years when he himself is a front line starter, you have him for peanuts for a couple of years, in those years you can use the money he would cost if he was on the open market, 20+ million to upgrade other positions, this is how you create a contender. Look at St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Oakland all those teams bring up young stars in their farm system who are cost controlled and surround them with a few high priced FA’s. It’s the same luxury we currently have with Seager, Franklin, Miller, Zunino and Ackley. We are fortunate to have Walker and Paxton on board for nothing the next 6 years. You don’t punt that away. What you do is go out and sign a couple of big FA to surround them. I don’t mind making a play on Cano, Choo, Granderson or trading for guys who are undervalued because of circumstance or injury (Either, Kemp). But I don’t like giving up the farm/future by going after a guy who only has two years left before he could bolt, was on the DL for the first time in his career and who’s velocity dipped for the first time in his career.

    It wouldn’t be smart. Not for Walker.

  6. To further the article I believe that the player is allowed to have contract talks with any team that posts the 20mil offer or tied the highest bid. Meaning that if 4 teams post 20mil all 4 get to talk to him. It may be better for small market teams in the posting fee area but what makes the player sign there ?

    The golden eagles released a statement on the posting of Tanaka saying they were the only team of the 12 in NPB that opposed the new changes but eventually gave in. They also stated that Tanaka is much more valuable to them then the 20mil max they will get from letting him go so I’m not so sure if he will get posted with the new changes.

    Here is the link from the actual Japanese article translated http://www.latimes.com/sports/dodgersnow/la-sp-dn-dodgers-masahiro-tanaka-japan-20131205,0,2078665.story#axzz2mcirQZpn

  7. Agreed. If there is a posting maximum, there’s no real insentive to post Tanaka. He might have been posted if there was no ceiling, but not anymore. He will probably get to America via Free Agency, which won’t be anytime soon.

  8. Guys like you are always defending your irrational, lack of logic, ranting by name-calling when you get caught. To be blunt, you go off half-cocked with emotionally driven rants that lack any real form of logic. At least rjfrik backs up his statements. He and I don’t agree most of the time, but he does more than complain about things based less on his beliefs, and more on facts.

    There were no facts in your comments, only your “Chicken Little” assessment of what you believe give validity to what you said.

    You can believe what you want, but when they lack factual analysis, expect others to cry foul.

  9. Exactly. Price is a premium talent. Someone is going to have to give up talent to get talent. I would think that if Price is only good for one year in Seattle, they may get a developing talent, like Pike or Gohara, in a package. But I doubt that Jack would be willing to trade one year of Price for Walker. The only way that happens is if Price was the last piece needed to become a playoff team. And, Jack knows that’s not the case.

  10. Right now Itoi is the only viable option from Japan if he is posted like many think he will be. 20 Mill was about the range to land him.

  11. To get a talent like Price your going to have to give up a guy like Walker. No way around it t all. wether there is talks for a new contract don’t matter that is what the Price will be. Pun intended.

  12. Tanaka will not be posted this season or maybe now not for some time. Rakuten would be best served to keep Tanaka for some time. Unless Tanaka can get his wishes or somethign changes with the posting system I do not see him being avail. at all.

  13. Will Smith is going to be put back to being a starter in Mil. Smith has upper level talent but spuddered at times till moved to the pen. Mil views him as a #3 or #4 starter. So we would have had to give up Paxton.

  14. KC just traded for Aoki for Will Smith. I think we could have done better then Will Smith. Aoki would have been a nice upgrade in the OF

  15. Edman I didn’t say anything about JZ. Re-read my post. All I said is if the rumors are true then the M’s are in deep shit. Let’s hope they are just rumors.

  16. The feeling is mutual Edman.

    How you have managed to keep the “rose colored glasses” on after all these years is impossible to comprehend. Just exactly what do you base your optimism on? I think I have reason to be pessimistic, especially after the past 11 years.

    The only thing you are right about is that Jack wouldn’t give up Walker for a player on a one year deal. Price is actually two years away from free agency.

    My only question for an apologist like you is this: if Jack does trade Walker (and other players like Franklin) for Price, and there is no contract extension for Price, will you be critical of Jack then?

  17. Agreed, see my previous post, “A memo to Jack Z.”

  18. Nippon Professional Baseball and Major League Baseball have reached a basic agreement on a new posting system, sources said Thursday. It is thought that an agreement has been reached after MLB requested a posting fee cap of $20 million. The move will be formalized once the two sides have ironed out the details. “A draft is being prepared and hopefully both MLB and NPB can sign an official decision,” said NPB secretary general Atsushi Ihara.
    The implementation of the new system would pave the way for Tohoku Rakuten Eagles pitcher Masahiro Tanaka to sign with a major league team this winter. Tanaka told Rakuten during contract negotiations in December last year that he hopes in the future to pursue a career in the major leagues. He has not clearly stated that he wants to make the move this off-season. NPB on Tuesday discussed with representatives of the Japan’s 12 teams MLB’s demands of a maximum posting fee of $20 million and although Rakuten showed reluctance to the proposal, it accepted the idea and resolution was passed. Source: Japan Times

  19. Was his value the same as last year for few years of Justin Upton and we were giving up a load more too. I hole your right but Jack hasn’t won many trades lately… I gues the Vargas swap was good. But it’s a shame he couldn’t get in on Fister or Fowler for what those teams got we may have been able to compete. Roll on some action….

  20. What if the rumor comes with a contract extension for Price? There are a lot of variables to consider. I doubt Jack gives up Walker without a contract extension from Price. Price is a TOR lefthanded pitcher, Walker may be one someday.

    Rumors are not facts, and like any good fishing story, the size of the fish tends to grow, the more it’s told.

    Relax, and stop acting like Jack is an amature. He knows Walker’s value. Jack has stated many times that he will not give up top talent for a one year rental. Why would he change now? Oh, I know, because supposedly, he’s ready to panic.

  21. Well if the rumor is true, Walker, Franklin and change for Price, then the Mariners are in deep shit. Hoping it’s just a rumor. Praying actually.

  22. Holy jumping to huge conclusion, Batman.You’re making crap up in your head, and assigning it to Jack. How does it feel to jump off the end of the pier on your way to the island of conclusion? None of those thing have happened in reality, only in your mind.

    I really dislike fans like you, because you rant about stuff that exists only in your head, and treat it like fact. You draw your own conclusion, with the thinnest of threads. Jack has NEVER given up a player like Walker on a one year deal, yet there you go off the end of that pier.

    Why don’t you go ask Kansas City how important it was to be so near the post season, after many years of futility.

    I hope nobody here falls for your crap. It’s only an opinion with nothing but speculation based on your personal bias.

  23. MEMO TO JACK Z:

    Instead of giving up Walker for Price, how about matching the max bid of 20 million for Tanaka, then outbidding the field for his services and sign him to a long term contract?

    Yes you have some money to spend, but let’s do it wisely (and keep our top prospect).

    If you won’t take my word on it, how about asking Kansas City how good they feel about losing Wil Myers for their rental?

  24. Walker for Price anyone? I sure hope they don’t make that trade…

    I sure hope Jack Z is not as desperate as he sounds. This is what happens when you bring him back for one more lame duck season. He should have been fired, and never put in this position to set us back for years with bad moves like signing Nelsen Cruz and trading Walker for a two year rental when we are nowhere near ready to contend.

    I almost wish he would do nothing this offseason…

  25. So the new posting fee system looks to be done. NPB looks like they will accept it. 20 Mill limit on posting fees and the player gets to choose what team he goes too. Sounds like a win for the smaller clubs. However the big name teams will get players based off of fame.

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