Jacoby Ellsbury Is One of Yankees Worst Contracts Ever

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

The New York Yankees have had some really bad contracts over their history, but could someone on the current roster be the worst? Center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury hasn’t been terrible, but for the money he is making, he should be doing a lot more.

When you think of bad Yankee contracts, you think of names like Carl Pavano, Kei Igawa and Kevin Youkilis. But after two seasons and a handful of games in 2016, Ellsbury could be on his way up towards the top of the list. It’s way too early to tell what this season will bring, but after just four games he only has four hits in 18 at-bats.

In two full seasons with the Yankees, Ellsbury hit .264 with 23 home runs, 44 doubles, 61 stolen bases and a .708 OPS. During his seven seasons in Boston he hit .297, 65 home runs, 155 doubles, stole 241 bases and had a .789 OPS. His numbers have dropped all across the board, except for his strikeouts, which have increased.

His numbers aren’t atrocious for an average outfielder on a non-contender, but for a player making $153 million, on the Yankees, it’s simply not cutting it. He had similar stats to center fielders like Juan Lagares, Joc Pederson and Cameron Maybin. Combined these three players make just over $11 million, about half of what Ellsbury does.

Injuries have always been a problem for him, and a knee injury sidelined him for some time in 2015. Both parties claim his knee didn’t play a part in his low production last year, but it had to be. He was very good in the first half, but turned ice cold for the second.

Ellsbury was also sat in favor of Chris Young last year during the Wild Card Game. Not exactly where you want someone who is being paid almost $22 million a season.

More from Yankees News

Before the All Star break, Ellsbury batted .318 with an OBP of .399 and a slugging percentage of .376. After the All Star Game, he hit .220 with an OBP of .266 and a slugging percentage of .326. His and Brett Gardner’s production took a hit during the second half of the season, which caused the entire lineup to suffer.

The Yankees play their best when Gardner and Ellsbury leadoff and get on base for Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann. If they don’t get on base, the middle of the order won’t succeed. It’s very simple logic, yet complicated for the Yankees.

Ellsbury currently has the 28th highest contract of all-time, which came after a season in which he batted .298 with 172 hits, 52 stolen bases and an OBP of .355 with the Boston Red Sox. The Yankees knew it would be a risky signing, but didn’t think it would be questioned this frequently, this early.

Going into the contact, many thought the Yankees would regret the latter half, when his legs would start to falter. Just 263 games in, the Yankees may be wishing they could have a reset button.

That offseason the Yankees held off re-signing second baseman Robinson Cano to a massive contract, something that is still questioned to this day. Luckily for them, trading for Starlin Castro might’ve eased the blow.

They also signed right fielder Carlos Beltran to a three-year, $45 million deal and starter Masahiro Tanaka to a seven-year, $155 million contract. Instead of breaking the bank for just one player, they signed three. At the time it made sense, but the three haven’t met expectations.

Tanaka, the big-named Japanese pitcher who was supposed to the future ace of the staff, is 25-12 with a 3.16 ERA over 45 starts. Not bad numbers, but he hasn’t been the big-game pitcher the Yankees were looking for. He surrendered a second-inning home run to Colby Rasmus, which deflated the team along with the crowd. Also, he’s had some lingering elbow issues that could still lead to Tommy John surgery.

Beltran had a better 2015 season than 2014, but has been just a .256 hitter with the Yankees, with 35 home runs and 118 RBIs. Beltran’s deal is almost up, which makes it the best of all three. His better years are way behind him, but the Yankees paid for the name.

At the time, they all seemed like the right move, but in 2016 they are not. Injuries and age are huge factors for the three of them, and a cheaper, younger player may be the best route. But, unless Ellsbury demands a trade or Tanaka opts out, the Yankees will have both for years to come.

Ellsbury still has just under five full seasons to right the ship before the team’s option would kick in. At this rate the Yankees will most likely move on from him for the $5 million buyout, which could lead to signing someone else.

The ball is in Ellsbury’s court now, five more years of solid production and a World Series title or two could be a nearly $17 million difference for him.