Yankees Rumors: Why a Jacoby Ellsbury for Johnny Cueto trade makes sense

Jacoby Ellsbury (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jacoby Ellsbury (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, the San Francisco Giants have talked about possibly trading for Yankees outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury. It’s unclear what New York could get in return if a trade were to take place but a swap of Ellsbury for starting pitcher Johnny Cueto could make a lot of sense for both teams.

Jacoby Ellsbury has failed to live up to expectations with the Yankees after they made the mistake to sign him to a seven-year, $153 million contract before the 2014 season. It was a terrible move by the Yanks and you know they’d love to trade Ellsbury and the more than $42 million they still owe to him over the next two seasons.

Even before Ellsbury missed all of last season due to injury his contract seemed to be untradeable because of his lack of production and inability to stay healthy. That’s still the case unless the Yankees can trade him to a team that would offer another terrible contract in return so the money exchanged comes close to evening out.

The Giants are one team that have some bad contracts of their own on their payroll and they’re a team that looks desperate for outfield help. Clearly, Ellsbury is a shell of the player he once was but he’s expected to report to Yankees camp healthy and ready to compete for the starting job in left field.

The Yankees enter 2019 with the same outfield they featured for most of last season in addition to the returning Ellsbury and Clint Frazier. Aaron Hicks and Aaron Judge both have the starting jobs in center and right field locked down and Giancarlo Stanton figures to be the primary DH who will fill in at corner spots from time to time. Brett Gardner will compete for the left field job with Ellsbury and Frazier and at least one of them will be kept off the Opening Day roster, maybe even two of them.

Both Ellsbury and Frazier will face an uphill climb to win a roster spot because Gardner is pretty much a guarantee to earn a spot whether he wins the starting job or not. That’s why a trade of Ellsbury to remove him from the picture makes a ton of sense. Then Gardner and Frazier can battle it out amongst themselves which is what I’m sure Yankees management would prefer in an ideal world.

As Olney suggested in the tweet above trading Ellsbury for Cueto is a move that could benefit both clubs for multiple reasons. Even though Cueto is expected to miss most of if not all of next season after undergoing TJ surgery last August I think the Yanks would be willing to trade Ellsbury for anything at this point, just so they could clear his roster spot.

Cueto is owed $21M over the next three seasons with a $22M option for 2022 but if he missed all of 2019 his team would get back some of that money from insurance for all the time he is out. Obviously, if this deal came to fruition Cueto wouldn’t be a contributor for the Yanks this season but for the remainder of his contract, he certainly could be.

By the start of the 2020 campaign, Cueto should be fully healthy and there’s a chance he regains his old All-Star form when he returns to the mound. Before the injury, Cueto was one of the most consistent starters in baseball over the past decade so he could make a big impact for the Yanks and pitch in a rotation that their front office has really upgraded this offseason.

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With CC Sabathia set to retire at the end of the season, the Yankees could have Cueto slide in to fill his spot to give them one of most complete starting staffs in the game. However, since he is expected to make a full recovery the Giants might want to hold on to him so he could help them contend once he returns.

From a Yankee fans standpoint, the hope is that Giants would rather have Ellsbury to help them this year and in 2020 instead of Cueto who they’d still owe $21M a season through 2021. Personally, I think the Giants would be better off holding onto Cueto and than welcome him back in 2020. Even though he’s expected to miss next season he can make a bigger impact than Ellsbury when healthy and the Giants aren’t expected to contend next season anyway.

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Although, if for some reason they’d rather pay Ellsbury $21M for the next two years instead of paying Cueto the same amount for the next three than the Yankees should pounce and make this trade happen.