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The Cubs should take a flyer on Jacoby Ellsbury

The former Yankees and Red Sox outfielder has been mostly injured the last few years.

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David Ross and Jacoby Ellsbury as Red Sox players in 2013
Photo by Michael Ivins/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

Jacoby Ellsbury used to be one of the best players in baseball. He led his league in stolen bases three times and finished second in MVP voting (2011) as a member of the Red Sox.

The Yankees signed him to a seven-year, $153 million contract after he posted a 5.7 bWAR season with the Red Sox in their World Series-winning year of 2013.

Oh, man, what a mistake. Ellsbury posted a couple of decent seasons, but nothing near what the Yankees wanted nor was it worth that level of money. Since 2017 he has suffered from the following injuries:

Ellsbury injured an oblique muscle in his right side early during spring training in 2018, developed a bad back and had hip surgery Aug. 6 to repair a torn labrum in his left hip. He experienced plantar fasciitis in his right foot during his rehab program before spring training this year.

That’s quite the list of injuries. As a result, Ellsbury has not played in a baseball game — at all, not even on a rehab assignment — since the 2017 ALCS. He’s now 36 years old, and the Yankees gave him his outright release Wednesday, costing them quite a bit of money:

Ellsbury is owed $26,285,714 by the Yankees in one of their biggest free-agent mistakes: $21,142,857 for next season plus a $5 million buyout of a $21 million team option for 2021.

It’s not only one of the Yankees’ biggest mistakes, it’s one of the worst free-agent signings by anyone, at any time. It makes the Cubs’ signing of Craig Kimbrel look good, since the Cubs still have a chance to get some value out of that deal. The Yankees, incidentally, are trying to get some of that money back through filing a grievance:

... the Yankees are attempting to recoup some of the money by filing a grievance because Ellsbury used an outside facility to rehab injuries that kept him off the field for the past two seasons.

Regardless, here’s my thought for the Cubs: Why not take a flyer on Ellsbury? It costs almost nothing. He could be signed to a minor-league deal with a spring-training invitation, which would cost zero unless he made the 25-man roster. If not, he would be released at no cost to the Cubs. Or, if there seems to be interest from other teams, signing him to a minimum-salary MLB deal would cost $563,500, though that could be reduced by a release prior to Opening Day if Ellsbury can’t make the team.

Ellsbury has a longstanding connection to Theo Epstein. Theo made him Boston’s No. 1 pick (23rd overall) in 2005 and he was a starter for the team three years later, finishing third in Rookie of the Year voting and posting 3.0 bWAR in 2008. He went on to have several more good years with Boston, concluding with that 2013 World Series year.

In that Red Sox championship season, one of Ellsbury’s teammates was... new Cubs manager David Ross.


This Patrick Mooney article in The Athletic says that Ross will have influence on the signing of free agents. I’d think if Ross, having been Ellsbury’s teammate on a championship team (as well as briefly in 2008), thinks Ellsbury has something left in the tank, he might want him on his first Cubs squad. Ellsbury is working out with the hope of coming back in 2020:

“He’s finishing up his rehab [in Arizona] with a focus on Spring Training,” said a source close to the outfielder. “I’m sure he will [try to play in 2020].”

Again, the cost in dollars is minimal and if Ellsbury truly is done, he could just be released before the season begins. I’m not suggesting Ellsbury is any sort of savior, but if he’s finally healthy, he could be a useful part of the 2020 Cubs outfield.

What say you?


Should the Cubs take a flyer on Jacoby Ellsbury?

This poll is closed

  • 64%
    Sure, why not? Low risk, possible high reward!
    (620 votes)
  • 35%
    No way. He’s done.
    (338 votes)
958 votes total Vote Now