6 MLB Teams That Could Return Jacoby Ellsbury to Superstardom with Winter Trade
Thus far in his six-year career, Boston Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury has taken his fans on a rollercoaster ride.
There was the extreme high at the beginning of his career, when he burst onto the scene in 2007 and became a household name in Boston with his play during the postseason that helped the Red Sox secure its second World Series title in four seasons.
There was the steady rise to the top over the next two seasons as Ellsbury led the league in stolen bases twice and continued developing into a promising young ballplayer.
There was the extreme low in 2010 as Ellsbury missed all but 18 games with rib injuries that had teammates questioning his toughness and durability.
There was the high once again last season as Ellsbury finished second in MVP Award balloting and showed off a power stroke that produced 32 home runs.
Another low this season, as Ellsbury missed exactly three months with a shoulder subluxation and his team imploded around him.
Now, at least one MLB executive believes that Ellsbury's career with the Red Sox might be short-lived.
CSNNE.com reporter Sean McAdam said that when asked about the chances that Ellsbury could possibly be signed to a long-term extension before reaching free agency at the end of next season, the MLB exec quickly said, "Zero."
McAdam goes on to say that Ellsbury could be dangled out there for other teams in order to receive a quality starter in return.
Here are six MLB teams that could give Ellsbury the chance to return to superstardom once again.
1. Atlanta Braves
There is a strong likelihood that Atlanta Braves center fielder Michael Bourn could be moving on at the end of this season.
Bourn will likely be testing the free-agency waters, and with Scott Boras as his agent, his price tag may simply become unpalatable to the Braves.
The Braves certainly have the pitching depth that could help a Red Sox staff in dire need, and having center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury at the top of the Braves lineup would indeed be fun to watch in Atlanta.
2. Chicago Cubs
The Chicago Cubs have been in complete rebuild mode, shedding unwanted contracts and bringing in a bevy of young prospects over the past year.
According to MLBTradeRumors.com, the Cubs have $41.8 million in payroll commitments for next season. Even after signing arbitration-eligible players and natural raises for youngsters, the Cubs will be well under their payroll over the past five seasons.
Boston Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury would be a nice addition to the Cubs outfield along with top prospect Brett Jackson. Ellsbury is obviously a known commodity to both Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, and a deal involving Matt Garza might not be a stretch.
3. Houston Astros
Admittedly, this one might be a bit of a stretch, but hear me out for a second anyway.
The Houston Astros are preparing for a move to the AL West, a division that has become much more competitive. The Los Angeles Angels reloaded over the offseason to become a postseason contender once again, the Oakland A's are the surprise of the league and the Seattle Mariners are seven games above .500 in the second half.
Astros GM Jeff Luhnow has rid the team of all veterans and is now loaded with prospects auditioning for a spot on next year's roster. The payroll is without question the lowest in the majors, with only $5.5 million in payroll commitments for next season.
Of that $5.5 million, $5 million is paying for Wandy Rodriguez to pitch for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Astros have all kinds of payroll flexibility, and entering a new league and new division, they could be well-positioned to make a splash this offseason.
Acquiring center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury from the Boston Red Sox would certainly qualify as a splash.
4. New York Mets
The production from both left and center field for the New York Mets this season left a lot to be desired.
Center fielders combined for a .244/.325/.363 slash line, and left fielders just .224/.276/.390. Andres Torres, acquired from the San Francisco Giants last offseason, was not the answer for the Mets in center.
Boston Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury could be that answer, however.
The Mets will finish out of the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season, and attendance at four-year-old Citi Field continues to decline, dropping each year since opening in 2009.
Putting a more competitive product on the field would certainly help bolster that sagging attendance, and acquiring someone like Ellsbury could potentially help in that regard.
Ellsbury could give the Mets a leadoff option with speed and power. GM Sandy Alderson would have to be a bit creative, given the fact that the Mets have a farm system ranked only 22nd in all of baseball.
But this is a team desperate to turn things around—both on the field and at the turnstiles. So desperate times call for desperate measures.
5. Seattle Mariners
The Seattle Mariners are a team that is starting to turn the corner, posting a 34-27 record in the second half. And they're heavily armed for the future with young pitching prospects Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker and James Paxton.
Boston Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury is from the Northwest, so a trade to Seattle would be a homecoming of sorts. Franklin Gutierrez has played in less than half of his team's games over the past two seasons, and just doesn't have the superstar capability that Ellsbury possesses.
For a team that's shown improvement over the past two-plus months, adding Ellsbury would enhance a young offense that continues to show progress and would make the Mariners even more competitive in a stronger AL West Division.
6. Texas Rangers
There is a distinct possibility that the Texas Rangers could start next season without superstar outfielder Josh Hamilton. There has already been much speculation about Hamilton's free-agency status, and the Rangers could very well move on without Hamilton if the asking price is too high.
The Rangers could bring Boston Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury aboard. The depth is there in the farm system (ranked seventh in majors), and the addition of Ellsbury could absolutely help keep the Rangers at the top of the American League offensively.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.