Ellsbury's huge deal gamble for Yankees

Ellsbury's huge deal gamble for Yankees
December 4, 2013, 9:00 am
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What was the Yankees’ biggest issue last season? Injuries. And so what did they just do in free agency? Go out and get Jacoby Ellsbury, a player with a history of injuries.

Ellsbury, a fleet center fielder for seven years with the Red Sox, reached a seven-year deal for a reported $153 million on Tuesday. Ellsbury has put up lots of impressive statistics — he’s a lifetime .297 hitter who has led the American League in steals three times, including with 52 in 2013 — but check his games played. In 2010, 18 games. In 2012, 74 games. That’s a lot of money — Ellsbury will be baseball’s second-highest-paid outfielder, behind the Angels’ Josh Hamilton — gambled on the hope Ellsbury doesn’t get hurt again.

However, with Ellsbury in center and Brett Gardner in left, that’s a swift outfield for the Yankees. But what about the club’s desire to stay under Major League Baseball’s $189 million luxury tax threshold on salary, especially with free-agent second baseman Robinson Cano still unsigned?

“The Yankees still believe they could come in under $189 million next year with [newly signed catcher Brian] McCann, Ellsbury, Cano (at their price, about $23 million per year) and Hiroki Kuroda,” the New York Post writes. “But they would then be unable to do a second high-priced starter, such as Masahiro Tanaka, unless Alex Rodriguez’s contract for next season comes off the books because his suspension is upheld. But the Yankees probably won’t know that until the new year, by which time most of the higher-price pieces should be gone.”

But would Cano accept that Yankees price? Talk is now that the Mariners are making a push for the All-Star. Forgetting that ridiculous 10-year, $300-plus million contract Cano’s people put out there — which Cano has since backed away from — but the Yankees and he seem far off.

The Post’s Ken Davidoff floats the idea that Seattle could afford to make an offer over $200 million, somewhere the Yankees won’t go, and though Cano would be giving up the New York spotlight for a struggling team, “when Jay-Z is trying to establish himself as a force in athlete representation,” such a move can’t be dismissed.

“Cano joining the Mariners is a crazy notion. Not dramatically crazier, though, than what we have just experienced,” Davidoff writes. “This is suddenly the wackiest Hot Stove season in recent memory.”