They did it again just like they always do. The New York Yankees signed another Boston Red Sox player. They took Johnny Damon. They took Wade Boggs. They even took Babe Ruth. Now the evil empire struck again. The Yankees signed free agent centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury to a seven year deal, which is reported to be worth 153 million dollars.
Ellsbury has done a lot with Boston. He was a member of two World Series Championship teams. Roaming centerfield in Fenway, he dazzled with his glove, making countless highlight real catches and even winning a Gold Glove in 2011. He was also a consistent .300 hitter, who was a threat with both his bat and his speed on the bases.
But even with all of these positives, losing Jacoby Ellsbury is not the worst thing that could happen to the Red Sox. Ellsbury is an outstanding outfielder, but he can only contribute when he is healthy, which has been a major struggle throughout his career.
Three out of the past four seasons Ellsbury has missed significant time due to injury. In 2010, he only appeared in 18 games due to broken ribs in a collision. After having a successful return and winning the Comeback Player of the Year Award in 2011, Ellsbury again missed half of the season to a dislocated shoulder. Finally, last season Ellsbury missed much of the final month and a half of the season due to a fractured foot. While these injuries are not lingering injuries, 153 million is a lot of money to give to a guy who has missed so much time.
The Red Sox have an immediate option to replace him in center field with Jackie Bradley Jr, Boston’s #1 rated prospect. Last year, Bradley was the talk of spring training when he hit .419 and had a .519 on base percentage. His bat was on fire.
During the regular season, Bradley was shuffled back and forth like a pinball from Boston to AAA Pawtucket. During each call up to Boston, Bradley gained confidence and began to display the talent that had scouts raving. And in his final call up he showed that he belonged.
At age 23, Bradley can step in and be every bit the player Jacoby Ellsbury was by showcasing his gap to gap power and his above average glove in the field. The veteran leadership by Shane Victorino, David Ortiz, and Dustin Pedroia, and will help Bradley grow into the player that he can be.
For Boston fans it may initially be hard to see Ellsbury switch over and wear the Yankee pinstripes, but seeing the championship banner raised should help to take away the early season pain. Jackie Bradley Jr. playing to his full potential will help to take care of the rest.