Boston Red Sox Were Smart Not to Re-Sign Jacoby Ellsbury

Jonathan CullenSenior Writer IDecember 4, 2013

Ellsbury's next game at Fenway Park will be with the Yankees.
Ellsbury's next game at Fenway Park will be with the Yankees.Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

We knew this day was possible. New York Daily News' Mark Feinsand was the first to report the New York Yankees have signed center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury. CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reports it's a seven-year deal worth $153 million.

It's stings a little bit right now, but the Boston Red Sox can console themselves by remembering they just won the World Series just over five weeks ago. 

The Red Sox can also console themselves in the fact they didn't sign Ellsbury to this contract. This situation worked out perfectly for the Red Sox. They were able to maximize Ellsbury's talents this season all they way to a World Series win, they finally have a cordial departure of a star player and then have another AL East division rival vastly overpay for a player who might struggle badly to live up to his contract. 

In some respects, Ellsbury joining the Yankees resembles Johnny Damon's surprising move to the Yankees back in 2005, but the Red Sox are different now. This current model of the Red Sox franchise doesn't seem to have quite the inferiority complex previous versions have had. 

Ellsbury is a good player, one whom the Red Sox would have welcomed back at a reasonable price. But this contract pays Ellsbury like he is a great player, one who is worthy of roughly $22 million per season. The numbers simply don't support that Ellsbury is worth that.  

The Red Sox have already done that contract when they signed Carl Crawford. Boston was extremely fortunate to get out from underneath Crawford's $142 million contract. I could easily see the Yankees having buyer's remorse with this deal after two years. 

The 30-year-old Ellsbury should thrive hitting in New York's short right field. It might be an area Ellsbury can exploit to increase his home run and power totals. Ellsbury holds a career .285 average hitting in the Yankees' new stadium. Ellsbury hit 32 home runs in 2011, the only year Ellsbury was considered to be a truly elite player. Those power numbers have proven to be an outlier in his career, when he has only hit 33 home runs combined in his other six seasons at the major league level. 

If New York has a concern in the deal, it would be that Ellsbury has played in only 384 of a possible 648 regular season games over the past four years. Whether the injuries occurred during fluke plays or because Ellsbury was unlucky, it still is a startling number for a younger player in his prime.

The Red Sox haven't become cheap, they are simply choosing to run their baseball team without emotion, making smart business decisions for the short term and long term. Boston can turn towards Jackie Bradley, Jr., sign a free agent like Shin-Soo Choo or make a trade for a player like Giancarlo Stanton or Carlos Gonzalez. Boston has many options they can explore after this deal. 

A side benefit to this deal is that it is likely to inject some much-needed life into the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, which has become stagnant over the past couple of seasons.

So, when Ellsbury comes back to Fenway Park next year, the fans should hopefully give him a standing ovation before his first at-bat and then go about booing him from then on. Ellsbury's isn't a traitor, he simply signed the best deal available. It just happened to come from New York.

The Yankees needed to make this deal, the Red Sox did not. So, while the Yankees try to win the winter, the Red Sox can remind them they won when it counted.