The New York Yankees have been unbelievably snake-bitten to start the 2019 season. Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Luis Severino, the list of important pieces goes on.
Among the list of injured players, is someone who was supposed to be an important piece, but has struggled to stay on the field. Heck, he didn’t even play an inning in 2018.
Jacoby Ellsbury, whose condition has somehow gotten worse.
The former Red Sox outfielder has averaged 130 games a season for the Yankees, excluding last season. In his four years, he has averaged 10 home runs, a .264 average and a .716 OPS. Not bad, but not great. Certainly not enough for what Ellsbury makes, averaging just over $21 million a year over the course of his seven-year deal.
Looking at how things with Ellsbury have gone with the Yankees, this might be the best move the Red Sox have made, at least this century. Imagine another huge contract going against Boston’s payroll, and that same player isn’t even playing.
For all the bad moves the Red Sox have made (i.e. Pablo Sandoval) this would have been their biggest mistake. Not because Jackie Bradley Jr. was waiting in the wings as a superior defensive outfielder. Ellsbury was immensely overvalued when he hit free agency. That’s not simply referring to the amount of money he received, that’s obvious.
When Ellsbury hit the market, he was three years off from being the MVP runner-up — which he should have won, for whatever that’s worth. That still stands as the clear-cut best season of his career. But that was an anomaly. Outside of 2011, Ellsbury has only hit 10 or more home runs once — his first year in New York — and he’s never had an OPS over .800 in any year but 2011 (excluding his 33-game season in 2007).
Ellsbury is a good player if he’s healthy, but that’s been a pretty big “if” for him throughout his Major League career. He was never set to be the centerpiece of a lineup. A valuable asset, but never “the guy” like Mookie Betts has become. Which is why that signing might be among the Yankees worst ever. How they couldn’t see that, even from the outside looking in, is still perplexing. Having the short porch in Yankee Stadium should have helped him, but relying on the makeup of a ballpark to give a hitter that much of a kickstart was a huge risk — one that will likely never fully pan out.