Yankees: Jacoby Ellsbury will go down as the worst free agent signing in franchise history
The Yankees released Jacoby Ellsbury Wednesday night, officially ending his six-year stint with the club. New York had high hopes for Ellsbury when they signed him to a seven-year, $153M deal back in 2013, but he never came close to living up to expectations and will go down as the worst free-agent signing in franchise history.
It’s hard to put into words just how big of a disaster Jacoby Ellsbury’s tenure was with the Yankees. From the beginning to the end he was an awful fit in pinstripes and struggled to stay healthy. There’s no doubt he’s the worst free-agent signing the team has ever made and he’s definitely up there amongst the worst in major league history.
When the Yanks signed him to his mega-deal on December 3rd of 2013 I’m sure a lot of fans were surprised to see him join the team after spending the first seven years of his career with the Boston Red Sox. Ellsbury was a solid player for Boston, but he missed a lot of games due to injury and outside of the 2011 season where he finished runner up for the AL MVP, he was never considered a star throughout the game. And yet the Yankees paid him like one and that’s a decision GM Brian Cashman will likely regret forever.
Ellsbury started his career in New York with a decent season in 2014. He batted .271 which was his highest batting average as a Yankee and hit 16 HR with 39 stolen bases in 149 games. Certainly not great numbers, or numbers that could justify paying him a $21M salary. After his first season in pinstripes, the center fielder’s production steadily declined and the injuries started to pile up.
In 2015 he only played in 111 games and hit .253 with only 7 HR and 33 RBI. He played so poorly during the second half of the season that Joe Girardi benched him for the AL Wild Card Game against Houston. In 2016, he managed to play in 148 games, but he hit .263 with 20 stolen bases and hit 9 HR with a brutal .374 SLG%.
2017 was the last season Ellsbury appeared in a game for the Yanks and injuries plagued him once again, limiting him to 112 games. He lost his starting job in center field to Aaron Hicks while he was recovering from a concussion he suffered in late May and when he returned he was unable to ever regain it. He actually played some of his best baseball with the Yanks that September to help them clinch another wild card berth but in the postseason he did absolutely nothing, hitting .000 in nine at-bats with a walk.
Ellsbury was expected to be a part of the Yankees roster in 2018, but he suffered an oblique strain during spring training and then injured his hip as well. There were multiple times throughout the season where the Yanks could’ve used him due to all the injuries in their starting outfield but in August he underwent surgery for a torn labrum in his hip. He finished the season without playing in a game.
This past season I don’t think the Yankees ever had any plans on playing him at all, but it didn’t really matter because he was never healthy enough to play anyway. Ellsbury stayed away from the club throughout the season at his home in Arizona reportedly recovering from plantar fascitis and a shoulder injury. In September the Yanks confirmed the inevitable by announcing he was out for the season yet again.
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Following his release on Wednesday, we can now close the book on Ellsbury’s time with the Yanks and take a look at his numbers. Over the course of six seasons, he missed a combined 452 games and hit .264 with 39 HR, 273 runs and 198 RBI. He stole 102 bases and posted a .716 OPS. He made zero All-Star teams, won zero gold gloves and he never even got a hit in the postseason.
Injuries played a role in Ellsbury’s struggles but looking back on his time with the club it was clear pretty early on in his tenure that the Yankees signed a player who was well past his prime. Signing him to that contract was a massive mistake and he’s one of the main reasons why Cashman and owner Hal Steinbrenner no longer hand out big contracts to players who are 30 and older.
Usually, I feel bad for players who just can’t stay healthy because that’s something that’s out of their control, but in the case of Ellsbury, it’s hard to feel sorry for him at all. He got paid like a superstar to be a below-average player, he always took longer than expected to return from an injury and he didn’t even play in a game during what turned out to be his final two years with the club.
It’s not his fault the Yankees were dumb enough to sign him to such a big contract, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that he was a terrible player during his time in the Bronx.