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Here’s an obvious first pick for you guys.
Long-time Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury will hit free agency for the first time this fall. The question remains: will the Red Sox re-sign him?
With highly-regarded prospect Jackie Bradley Jr. in Triple-A, the prevailing logic in Boston is to let Ellsbury walk. Bradley is a very talented young center fielder who has all the defensive tools to fully replace Ellsbury in that capacity. Bradley should also provide solid on base numbers and some speed. He’s certainly capable of taking the reins if Ellsbury signs elsewhere.
However, it’s not set in stone. Regardless of who is waiting in the wings, Ellsbury would be a huge loss. The one aspect of the game where Bradley is lacking compared to Ellsbury is speed.
Ellsbury’s plus-plus speed alone makes him one of Boston’s more valuable players. The outfielder is currently leading all of baseball in triples and stolen bases. If he continues at this pace, this will be the third time in six seasons that Ellsbury has led the league in swiped bags, and the second time he has led in triples.
The Red Sox just don’t have another player who can replace Ellsbury’s legs. Not even the lightning-footed Shane Victorino can run on the same level as Ellsbury.
While speed is not reason enough to lock him up long term, it does suggest that the Red Sox will kick the tires on a new Ellsbury contract for quite some time.
The price tag is really the only obstacle holding the Red Sox back. While his stock has fallen considerably since his MVP-caliber 2011 season, Ellsbury will still be an expensive signee for any team. However, with a free-agent class chock full of All-Star outfielders like Curtis Granderson, Jason Kubel, Carlos Beltran, Shin-Soo Choo and Hunter Pence, Ellsbury may fly under the radar, thus lowering his asking price.
Right now, the chances of signing him are fairly low. But if he does return to Boston at the right price, Red Sox fans should be pleased. Imagine how unbelievable the outfield would be with Bradley, Ellsbury, and Victorino, three Gold Glove-caliber center fielders, manning the outfield grass. That would give the Red Sox one of the best defensive outfields of all time. Well, at least we can dream about it.
Odds of signing him: 35%