Why did the Yankees sign Jacoby Ellsbury?


A few weeks ago I posted about the Yankees signing of former Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury and said that the deal should surprise no one given the Yankees reputation for a splash in free agency.

But with news of the Yankees recent 4-year, $52 million contract extension with Brett Gardner, I’m a bit confused.

I have several questions for the Yankees.  The first of which is, if you knew you were planning on extending Gardner, what was the purpose of signing Ellsbury?  Gardner is Ellsbury-lite, so now you basically have the same player at two outfield spots.  What is the point of this?  To have the best defensive outfield in baseball?  I didn’t know the Yankees were suddenly so sabermetric oriented.

Was it that important to take what you think is a key element to your main rival’s fortunes just because you have the most money?  If that’s the case, then the Yankees hierarchy is back in the business of chasing ghosts and making panic moves.  That’s good if you are a Red Sox fan.

Feb 22, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury (22) poses for a photo at Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Ellsbury is a good player but when you already have 75% of him on your roster and you plan to keep that established player long term why give a good but not great free agent player $153 million?

It just shows that the Yankees can’t develop players all that well, and (besides Gardner and David Robertson) haven’t for a long time.  When they miss the playoffs, as they did in 2013, they immediately run to the free agency trough to fix their issues.

They’ll tell you that it’s justified because it worked after 2008.  They spent over $400 million that off season for Mark Teixeira, C.C. Sabathia and A. J. Burnett and won a World Series in 2009.  Great.

But that doesn’t mean history is guaranteed to repeat itself in 2014.

I think I am more annoyed now by the Yankees signing of Ellsbury because they’ve decided to keep Gardner.  That move shows me that the Ellsbury signing was more than just about his skill set.  It was a chance to stick it to the Red Sox.  Fine.  Bring it on.

I was content to sit back and watch this 2014 Red Sox team attack the future coming off a miraculous season and had little worry as to whether they won 95 games again.  If Jackie Bradley, Jr. emerged as the answer to replacing Ellsbury, all the better.

But not now.  The Yankees think they’ve thrown down the gauntlet in the AL East and now I want the Sox to respond with a vengeance.

Hopefully they have the same take no prisoners attitude as a carry over from last season and Bradley becomes a superstar so they can stick Ellsbury right back in the Yankees’ face.