Would the Yankees trade away Clint Frazier if it meant getting rid of a bulk of Jacoby Ellsbury’s contract? After the Arizona Diamondbacks, the San Francisco Giants seem like a team Jacoby Ellsbury could waive his no-trade clause for.
As this is the second installment of the Yankees “Trading Jacoby Ellsbury” thread, I will summarize the background of Ellsbury’s contract status and why it is very important to trade him this offseason.
The Yankees need to get rid of a large chunk of Jacoby Ellsbury’s remaining contract in order for the team to maintain roster and payroll flexibility in the present and for the future. That said, Ellsbury has no real place on the 25-man roster, let alone the 40-man, even if he is healthy.
Ellsbury, who is owed over $21 million a year through 2020 with a $5 million buyout for 2021, is said to be progressing in his rehab and will be ready for Spring Training. According to S.I., the August surgery to repair a torn labrum in Ellsbury’s hip “went as expected.” Moreover, Ellsbury’s contract contains a full no-trade clause. A resident of San Francisco in the offseason, it would make sense that Ellsbury would only approve a trade that sends him closer to the West Coast.
In order to get a team to take on the bulk of Ellsbury’s contract, the Yankees will have to include minor league—or lesser major league—talent. A baseline for the amount of talent the Yankees will have to send to San Francisco is the Chase Headley, Bryan Mitchell trade from last offseason.
Below is a dissection of how the Yankees can work out a deal with San Francisco.
Recent reports across the industry speculate the Giants are preparing for a large-scale teardown and rebuilding project. With an extremely high payroll made up of bad contracts such as Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, and Mark Melancon, it’s no wonder why the Giants are considering a fire sale of their active roster. With that said, they won’t take on another bad contract like Ellsbury without getting rid of one.
The Giants have six outfielders on their current 40-man roster, and all six of them are AAAA players at best. In terms of roster space availability, the Giants could easily make room for Ellsbury by trading or DFA’ing one or more of the six outfielders. The Giants are also a West Coast team which would allow Ellsbury to stay near his offseason home in Arizona.
The biggest roadblock is piecing together what it would take for the Giants to agree to take on Ellsbury and most of his contract. It would not make sense for the two teams to swap a pair of aging players with large contracts. The point of trading Ellsbury is to free up salary, and to a lesser extent, roster space, in order for the Yankees to optimize their payroll and roster.
In order to trade Ellsbury and a large fraction of his contract, the Yankees will have to include young, high-upside talent. OF Clint Frazier, among others, fits nicely into this mold. A possible outcome would be the Yanks taking on one or two Major League players that are owed more than the league minimum salary in 2019 in order to offset Ellsbury’s contract.
Two names that jump out are LHP’s Tony Watson and Will Smith. Watson is entering the final year of a two-year/$7 million deal while Smith and the Giants recently avoided arbitration with a 1 year, $4.225 million deal. Both players will make somewhere in the area of $3-5 million in 2019 and are areas of need within the current Yankee roster. Smith and Watson are veteran arms that could help fill out the back end of the bullpen.
After Frazier, players like RHP’s Chance Adams, Luis Cessa, Domingo German, and Tommy Kahnle are guys that have plenty of upside but have become somewhat expendable within the current Yankee roster. Additionally, names like Domingo Acevedo and Albert Abreu are highly-rated minor league pitchers on the cusp of the big leagues.
New Giants President of Baseball Operations, Farhan Zaidi, was extremely aggressive on the trade front during his time as General Manager of the Dodgers and that will presumably continue in his new role. With that said, Zaidi will not be inclined to take on Ellsbury’s contract without a sizeable return. The Yanks won’t get as much salary relief in comparison to a potential deal with the Diamondbacks, but the opportunity to acquire a solid relief pitcher is worth the diminished monetary return.
Here is the framework of a trade between the Yankees and Giants involving Ellsbury:
Yes, the Yankees would be giving up a big haul of talent in this mock deal. On the surface, it may be too much but the possible acquisition of Will Smith along with unloading much of Ellsbury’s contract is by no means a small feat. The ability for the Yanks to save at least $25 million over the next two seasons while taking on Smith’s remaining contract is crucial.
The Yankees will acquire a reliable reliever in Smith who saved 18 games in 2018 after returning from Tommy John surgery. Since Ellsbury and Frazier would both be sent to the Giants, the Yankees would also get back outfielder Mac Williamson. Williamson will not offer much in terms of production and could be DFA’d soon after the trade.
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For their willingness to take on Ellsbury and a portion of his contract for the next two seasons, the Giants will net a very solid return. A healthy Clint Frazier has the potential to be a cornerstone in the Giants outfield for years to come. Though he struggled in limited appearances in 2018, RHP Chance Adams remains a highly rated prospect with back-end starter upside. Finally, Wilkerman Garcia, a former top prospect, is included as a lottery pick of sorts.
As mentioned in Part One of this installment, the likelihood of a deal of this type involving Ellsbury and his horrid contract is extremely small. It is very possible that the Yankees are going to give Clint Frazier a legitimate shot in Spring Training to win the starting job in left field, so that would nix the idea of this trade.
Nevertheless, Cashman and Co. are surely looking for ways to move Ellsbury and his contract in order to creative monetary and roster flexibility for the 2019 Yankees.