Ellsbury doesn't turn 30 until September. Until then, he will have to prove his value is not rapidly declining. To do so, he will have to show a large uptick in production while maintaining a status on the Red Sox that is more positive than detrimental. If he doesn't, any hope of securing a long-term, super-sized contract worth tens of millions is out of the question.
Since his major league debut in 2007, Ellsbury has reached 600 at-bat's in a single season just three times. Injuries have been extremely costly. At the same time, they have not limited his upside.
In 2010, Ellsbury suffered a rib injury that would severely limit his time off the disabled list. After various DL stints and rehab assignments, Ellsbury would only appear in the majors for 18 games that season.
Finally healthy in 2011, Ellsbury was the runner-up in American League MVP voting. He slugged 32 home runs and 112 RBI to coincide with his .321 AVG. In addition, the phenomenal outfielder stole 39 bases.
Last season, the Red Sox outfielder suffered a shoulder injury early on. He eventually returned for the Sox in what turned out to be a lost season, appearing in 74 games.
Since 2010, Ellsbury has played in an average of 83 games per season. When coalesced with his plate struggles in 2013, Boston can utilize his extensive injury history as a bargaining chip in order to get a more club-friendly deal with Ellsbury.
He has only finished with a Wins-Above-Replacement (WAR) of 4.0 or greater just twice in his career. Additionally, he has only hit for double-digit HR's once. While the upside remains, it is beginning to dwindle.
Ellsbury's 2011 season may have been an aberration.
The power he displayed that season was clearly abnormal compared with his production in other seasons. Even if one prorate's Ellsbury's injury-shortened seasons, the Red Sox centerfielder doesn't come close to what he was in 2011.
While Ellsbury is currently tied for the AL lead in stolen bases, his other traits are not impressive enough to characterize him as one who deserves a Powerball contract.
Instead, one could argue that Ellsbury isn't deserving of a contract similar to what Cody Ross received from the Arizona Diamondbacks. While Ross is three years older than Ellsbury, his career numbers trump those of Ellsbury's by a wide margin.
Just think, Ross's salary is $5 million this season. It will jump to $8.5 million for each of the next two seasons with a $9.5 million club option for 2016.
In the meantime, the current one-year extension worth $9 million that Ellsbury signed prior to the 2013 season isn't suggestive of what Ellsbury may earn once he hits free agency.
As Rob Bradford notes, Boston has yet to talk a contract extension with their centerfielder.
Because Ellsbury is playing right into the hands of the club's demands. The slugger is devaluing himself with decreased potential while showing signs of wear after a couple major injuries staggered his career.
Prospective outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is another reason why Ellsbury is not posturing himself well enough to extract more financially.
While Bradley Jr. struggled in his debut with the Red Sox, he has since found his groove in Triple-A. Since his demotion, the 23 year old is hitting .315 with an OPS of .885. While Bradley doesn't offer much power, his potential is similar to what Ellsbury has shown us outside his 2011 surge.
If Ellsbury continues to struggle, it will be more efficient for the Red Sox to move on.
At this point, Boston can't dangle Ellsbury as trade bait due to his extremely low value. Meanwhile, they would be foolish to offer him any long-term deal with an annual salary similar to what he is earning now.
At this rate, Ellsbury might not hold enough equity to reel in an offer worth $9 million or more per annum.