Youkilis is 33 and entering the home stretch of a four-year, $40 million contract signed before the 2009 season. Ellsbury is 28, coming off a monstrous 2011 campaign and is eligible for arbitration once 2012 is in the books.
Despite being injured at times in each of the last two seasons, Youkilis’ performance over the course of his contract has been solid enough where he won’t be easily convinced to take a pay cut. And with his 2011 performance—not to mention Scott Boras—backing his case, Ellsbury will look to cash in after 2012, either with Boston or another team.
If both players prove stubborn in offseason negotiations, Boston should focus their efforts on re-upping Ellsbury and letting Kevin Youkilis walk in free agency. Ideally the team could keep both players, but if they were forced to choose one, Ellsbury represents a far sounder investment.
The reasons for which are clear.