Jacoby Ellsbury’s time with the New York Yankees is over. Wednesday night, the Yankees announced they have released Ellsbury to clear space on the 40-man roster prior to the Rule 5 Draft protection deadline. New York added seven prospects to the 40-man roster and needed to open spots.
The Yankees signed Ellsbury to a seven-year, $153 million contract in December 2013 and he turned in a strong 2014 season, hitting .271/.328/.419 with 16 home runs and 39 stolen bases at a time when league-wide offensive numbers are much lower than they were in 2019. It has all been downhill since then, however.
From 2015-17, Ellsbury hit .261/.331/.372 overall and missed time with injuries in each season. He has not played since the 2017 ALCS — he was used a pinch-runner that series — due to a variety of injuries, including hip surgery. Last month GM Brian Cashman was vague when asked about Ellsbury’s availability for 2020.
“It’s hard to say based on how things have played out,” Cashman said at the time. “Right now, he’s not someone in a position health-wise where I can answer anything in the affirmative.”
Aaron Hicks will miss the start of next season as he rehabs from Tommy John surgery, so the Yankees need to find a center fielder this winter. If they had any confidence in Ellsbury being able to contribute, or even being able to compete for a roster spot in spring training, they would’ve kept him around. Obviously that is not the case.
All told, Ellsbury will appear in only 520 of 1,134 possible regular season games with the Yankees during his seven-year contract. The team paid $153 million for only 9.8 WAR, with most of that coming in 2014. He goes down as one of the biggest free agent busts not only in Yankees history, but baseball history
The Yankees reportedly held insurance on Ellsbury’s contract and recouped some portion of his salary in 2018 and 2019. George King and Ken Davidoff of the New York Post report Ellsbury’s deal is not insured in 2020, the final year on his contract, so there’s no reason to keep him. Move on and give the roster spot to someone else.
Ellsbury, 35, is a career .284/.342/.417 hitter in over 1,200 games with the Red Sox and Yankees. He was an All-Star in 2011 and finished second in the MVP voting that season. The Yankees owe Ellsbury $21 million in salary next season, plus another $5 million for the buyout of his 2021 option.