Three Ways the Yankees Could Dump Jacoby Ellsbury This Winter
By all indications, the Detroit Tigers are trying to cut payroll this winter, so them taking on a big money deal like Ellsbury’s seems counterintuitive. At the same time, the Tigers have a clear need in center field, with Anthony Gose and Jacoby Jones currently their best internal candidates.
They are still trying to compete in 2017, so if they were able to unload one of their own disappointing big money deals in exchange, there could be a fit. The Tigers have plenty of big contracts to choose from, but most of them are probably too good to swap for Ellsbury.
Their most onerous deals are Miguel Cabrera, who is still owed $212 million even if his 2024 and 2025 options don’t vest, and Justin Verlander, who was a serious AL Cy Young candidate last year. Despite the boatloads of money owed to them, anyone who wants to acquire them would probably need to part with some top prospects as well, making a deal for either guy unlikely.
The other two nine figure deals they have on the books might be a better fit following disappointing seasons. Jordan Zimmerman signed his five year $110 million contract just last offseason, and given the Yankees’ futile search for controllable starting pitching this winter, it’s possible they could see him as a viable bounce back candidate at age 31, even after pitching to a disappointing 4.87 ERA and 4.42 FIP in 105.1 IP while dealing with neck and groin injuries.
From 2012-2015, Zimmerman was one of the National League’s most consistent starters with the Nationals, accumulating a 3.13 ERA and 3.33 FIP over 129 starts over those four seasons, making him worth a combined 16.8 wins above replacement in that span according to Baseball-Reference.
Another possibility with the Tigers is their other big free agent signing from last year, Justin Upton, who is most likely available after hitting just .246/.310/.465 (108 OPS+) with 31 home runs and 87 RBI in 626 plate appearances
Aside from his flashy power numbers, Upton’s performance was pretty ugly in 2016, but he’s four years younger than Ellsbury and would give the Yanks another much-needed power bat. He’s owed $110.5 million over the next five years, so a straight one-for-one would help Detroit’s front office save around $20 million. New York would likely still need to sweeten the pot with a solid prospect or two for this to work.