3 Dec 2013
Word on Twitter is the Yankees have either finalized or are close to finalizing a 7 year/$150 or so million deal with Jacoby Ellsbury.
When the Red Sox signed Carl Crawford my biggest knock on the deal was that they were signing a “legs” player well into his 30’s and that seldom works. The Yankees are doing the exact same thing here. If you take away Ellsbury’s 32 homer season (I admit that I have always cast a very skeptical eye on that season PED-wise) he is not a power guy. So, what happens when he gets old?
Ah, but these are the Yankees you say. They will simply import a younger guy to take his place and they will figure out a way to move the salary or live with it. (Sidebar- since AAV is what determines luxury tax, the Yankees could front load this deal and pay Ellsbury the bulk in the first few years if they wanted to.) I just don’t think this is a great way to do business. I get that the draft pick was already gone with McCann, but where does this end? I also get that baseball is awash in cash and more seems to come in every day, so I guess the plan is to win now and figure the details out later, but sooner or later that has to fail, right?
And what does this mean for Robinson Cano? Assuming the salary numbers are true, Ellsbury will cost around $21 million a year. Add that to the current salaries (including McCann’s) and you are around $137 million. The true figure for staying under the luxury tax is $179 million so things are tightening up. Now, they could get A-Rod off the books, but….
Don’t get me wrong, this is a good baseball move for 2014 and the near term, but beyond that I worry. I just wonder if anyone in the front office joins me in doing so?
UPDATE- 10:30PM Here’s a very interesting article from Cliff Corcoran of SI.com from two weeks ago. Here he attempts to value Ellsbury’s next contract. You should read it in detail, but let me give you the broad strokes.
He values Ellsbury to be a productive player (positive WAR) over the next seven years. That’s good for the Yankees, no drop to replacement level here.
His value estimate is harder to grip because he has a number of assumptions which you may or may not agree with, but he has a range of $104 million for 7 years to $163 million. That suggests that even at the most pessimistic value, the Yankees didn’t make a crazy mistake. (For an example of a crazy mistake take A-Rod who was paid $26.4 million more than he produced in 2013.) Now valuing something is an inexact science, but this does make me feel better.
He points out, and this is very important, that his method values all wins as meaning the same to each team. But, all wins don’t mean the same thing to each team. A team that loses 90 games will value a win much, much lower than a team that wins 90 because the team that wins 90 is in playoff contention and those extra wins could bring in extra revenue.
But all of this got me to thinking about the Yankees as currently constructed. You add Ellsbury and McCann and you have improved by over 8 wins based on 2013. However, subtract Cano and you lose 6 of those wins. (Obviously, his replacement could add some value but it won’t be more than half of that figure.) So, these moves while good for 2014, lose a lot of their luster if Cano doesn’t return.