Pressure is on Yankees’ Jacoby Ellsbury
The first two years of Jacoby Ellsbury’s seven year, $153-million contract have been disappointments, and 2016 might be the most important year for the Yankees’ center fielder.
When healthy, Jacoby Ellsbury is by far the Yankees’ most consistent player. Prior to his knee injury in 2015, Ellsbury was batting .324 with an on-base percentage of .412. After returning from the disabled list, he was so bad that manager Joe Girardi benched him in the American League Wild Card game.
New York could definitely use the healthy Ellsbury, but the former Red Sox All-Star has yet to play a full season for the Yankees and produce like he did in Boston.
Ellsbury is signed until 2020, and I think the Yankees eventually (heck, even now) will realize this deal was better off avoiding.
More from Yanks Go Yard
- Should Yankees toss short-term extension at Harrison Bader before 2023?
- Yankees chose worst possible player to ring in New Year on 2023 team calendar
- Yankees State of the Farm System Review: Josh Breaux
- Yankees make upside play, sign former Rangers top prospect outfielder
- MLB insider claims favorite emerging in Bryan Reynolds rumors (not Yankees)
Sure, fans point to the contracts of Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and CC Sabathia as being ridiculous, but at least their tenure here has brought the Yankees their 27th World Series Title. A-Rod and Texeira were also the offensive leaders for the 2015 team, and Sabathia seemed like his old self after coming off a DL stint late last year.
The Yankees contract to Ellsbury is the biggest contract given to a position player (besides A-Rod, Teixeira, and Derek Jeter), and the only thing they got out of the investment thus far are two inconsistent years. Did I mention he was benched in a do-or-die playoff game?
While the Yankees bought Ellsbury for his speed, sensational fielding, and decent power, all they’ve gotten so far are the attributes they hoped he left in Boston. He is brittle and is guaranteed to miss a decent amount of time nearly every season.
The question is: how Ellsbury will respond? His age tells us that his fragile body will only worsen. Plus, a healthy Ellsbury is known as having quick reflexes and athleticism and as those fade with age, it is almost guaranteed we won’t see the numbers we used to see.
Don’t forget: this man is in the Bronx until 2020.
Patience is most certainly about to give as he has (so far) failed to live up to his monster contract. So what does Ellsbury have to do in order to turn his ugly marriage with the Yankees around?
The best case scenario for him and New York is that his speed returns and he provides a little pop at the top of the order. I think Girardi will take 40 stolen bases and around 15 home runs out of the lead off spot, just like the Yankees imagined him doing when they signed the speedster.
Call to the Pen
The worst case scenario is that he simply carries over his dismal 2015 play into this upcoming season, but I don’t see that happening.
According to many reports, Ellsbury played through a ton of knee pain during the second half of the 2015 season, leading to the decrease in production. Whether that’s the truth or just an excuse, I don’t know. But I do expect the fragile center fielder to get dinged up here and there, but ultimately wind up with a similar stat line to 2014 (16 HR’s, .271 AVG, 39 SB).
The Yankees will without a doubt take that in 2016, as he only hit seven home runs and batted .257 with 15 stolen bases a year ago, but there is one trait I want Ellsbury to show as the new season is right around the corner. And that’s to be a leader.
Joe Girardi justified benching him in the Wild Card game because Gardner’s OPS against lefties (.761) was significantly better then Ellsbury’s (.652).
But Ellsbury is the regular center fielder, the regular lead off hitter, and is the guy with the much longer commitment, so I have an idea that the decision was based on a different type of commitment.
The Yankees organization has a far greater emotional commitment to Brett Gardner.
After Jeter’s retirement, Gardner stepped in as the face and emotional leader of the Yankees (now, I think it’s safe to say that’s A-Rod). Ellsbury’s absence on the field also left a lack in leadership and in a one game playoff the Yankees demonstrated that they have no trust in their $153 million investment as a ballplayer, and as a leader.
The pressure is on for Ellsbury to bounce back statistically, but to come out of his usual reserved self and provide a spark that ignites the Yankees into the postseason and beyond.
Related Story: Joe Girardi is One of the Best Managers
The Ellsbury-Yankees marriage is looking like it will end in an ugly divorce, but the outfielder has the power transition that path into a happy ever after.