First it was Brian McCann. Now, the New York Yankees have signed center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury to a seven-year, $153 million contract. The Yankees have once again stolen a former Red Sox center fielder, nearly a decade after signing Johnny Damon away from Boston.
The 30-year old Ellsbury was TOC's second-ranked free agent this winter, and was expected to get paid after a 2013 season that saw him hit .298/.355/.426 with nine home runs and 52 stolen bases (with just four caught stealings, as well). Ellsbury is a plus defender in center field, and whatever defensive alignment the Yankees decide to put together with him, Brett Gardner, and Ichiro will be one of the best in baseball.
But the price for Ellsbury was steep. Nearly $22 million a year into his mid-30s for a player whose strong suits are his defense and speed? That's not a real good combination. At least for next year, New York will have successfully improved their offense, but signing Ellsbury may cost them Robinson Cano if the team is still devoted to staying under the $189 million luxury tax cap – and that might be a bigger loss at the end of the day.