There is little no doubt that when opposing teams are calling Ben Cherington, the general manager of the Boston Red Sox, the name most commonly mentioned is Jacoby Ellsbury. The 29-year-old Ellsbury is a talented player who can do a lot of things for a baseball team.
He is also a free agent after next season.
Speculation is that the Red Sox are not inclined to trade Ellsbury while his value is low, coming off of an injury-plagued season. However, there are a few factors that would make it more beneficial for Boston to move Ellsbury now.
Firstly, the free agent stigma is going to hang over his head. With Ellsbury being represented by Scott Boras, there is little inclination for Boras to have the Red Sox lock up Ellsbury long term. No, he wants to take all of his clients to the open market and Jacoby Ellsbury will be his cash cow next winter. The Red Sox would be better off trading Ellsbury for a piece that can help them now and in the future rather than playing the lottery with a draft selection that will take years to pan out.
Secondly, the new collective bargaining agreement stipulates that a player must be with his new team for a full season in order for that team to garner a draft pick as compensation should said player sign with another team. No more can a team acquire players simply for the purpose of building up their draft portfolio. That means Ellsbury’s highest value to another team, knowing that he could leave via free agency, is by acquiring him now. The acquiring team, likely a contender, gets a full year of Ellsbury, in a walk year nonetheless, and also stands to regain a draft selection should they lose him to free agency.
Thirdly, the Red Sox have the talent in the minor league, in Jackie Bradley, that is close to being ready to step into Ellsbury’s slot next season. The 22-year-old first round pick is well on his way toward a September call-up in 2013 and potentially a starting slot in 2014.
One rumored swap involving Ellsbury and the Red Sox has been a deal with the Texas Rangers for either Elvis Andrus or Derek Holland. The Rangers have been a rumored landing spot due to their need to replace Josh Hamilton in their line-up.
Yes, Boston needs pitching, but Holland is a middling talent at best and his home run tendencies would be exposed to a higher degree as a left-hander in Fenway Park.
That makes Andrus an obvious target. The is a proven quantity at the position who may suddenly become available in order to make room for top prospect Jurickson Profar. Andrus is a two-time All-Star with a .275 career average and an solid ability to get on base and score runs at the top of the order. Andrus is also under contract for two more seasons, at a very friendly rate.
Boston’s interest is a no-brainer. They lack a proven talent at shortstop, having traded Mike Aviles earlier this offseason. Furthermore, the lack of offensive development by prospect Jose Iglesias leaves many in the Boston organization with reservations on whether he will be able to hit major league pitching. Boston’s top prospect, Xander Bogaerts is himself likely a year away from the majors, but will likely necessitate a position shift at the highest level.
To make a deal work, the Red Sox would likely have to sweeten the pot a bit, tossing in a pitching prospect of some regard to help hedge against Ellsbury leaving Texas. Jon Daniels was very fond of the deal Cherington made with the Dodgers last season and could look at one of those pieces as a another piece of the return.
Still, there is ground to be worked here and this is definitely something the two teams could come together on.