J. Meric/Getty Images
Ellsbury's contract may be affordable
In the spring of 2011, if you had told anyone remotely involved in baseball that Ellsbury would be a potential $100 million player, you would have been laughed at. What a difference a season makes.
In 2011, Ellsbury put up monster numbers, going 30-30 and posting a .321/.376/.552 slash line. Despite being shafted in the MVP vote, Ellsbury’s 2011 performance was truly a season for the ages. As a result, Ellsbury’s reputation around baseball went from “solid leadoff hitter” to “legitimate superstar.” Thus, with free agency around the corner, and with Scott Boras running the negotiations, everyone expected the young speedster to cash in on the open market
The model contract envisioned for Ellsbury at the time was Matt Kemp’s 8-year, $160 million deal. However, unlike Kemp, Ellsbury has several flaws that will drive his price tag much lower.
For example, his health is a major concern. He’s has only managed to top 600 plate appearances three times in his six-year career. When the injury bug strikes, Ellsbury is almost always a casualty.
An even more concerning issue is Ellsbury’s inconsistency. While no one questions his speed, on-base percentage or his defense, Ellsbury has only shown an ability to hit for power only once in his career. There is no way to know whether he will be able to mash anywhere near 32 round trippers again, especially if he moves to a more pitcher-friendly ballpark.
If a team hands him a $100 million-plus contract, only to find out that he doesn’t have any power, they will have vastly overpaid.
With that in mind, any team that comes to the negotiating table will begin with a framework of BJ Upton’s recent five-year, $75 million deal. Upton’s contract was not based on his performance in recent years, but rather on his potential to perform at a high level at some point in the future.
Ellsbury is in a similar situation. No one in baseball is at all sure whether Ellsbury can come close to his 2011 production ever again. The team that pays his next contract will pay him based on potential, not proven success. Thus, the price will be much lower than people think.