Wednesday, December 4, 2013

What Would Jose Reyes Think of the Jacoby Ellsbury Deal?

In a move that took this blogger by surprise, the Yankees and Jacoby Ellsbury agreed to a seven-year, $153 million deal, with an eighth year option that would increase the value of the contract to $169 million.  It would also take Ellsbury to his age 38 season.  That price tag seems a little high for a player who’s already in his 30s and whose main asset is his speed.  But it’s also much higher than what Jose Reyes got when he became a free agent following the 2011 season.  In fact, I wonder what Reyes is thinking right now.

When Reyes became a free agent two years ago, he was scooped up by the Miami Marlins for six years and $106 million.  If Ellsbury’s option year is picked up, he will be earning $63 million more than Reyes.  There are many reasons Reyes should be upset with this.

"How come Ellsbury got all that money and I didn't?"

One of the reasons why Reyes’ value wasn’t as high as it could have been was because he was considered injury prone.  In his final year with the Mets, he was placed on the disabled list twice and he also missed the majority of the 2003, 2004 and 2009 seasons because of various injuries.  But Ellsbury missed a total of 264 games from 2010 to 2013 – the equivalent of almost two full seasons in a four-year span.  Ellsbury spent just as much time on the disabled list as Reyes did, if not more.

Reyes was just 28 when he signed his nine-figure deal with the Marlins.  In other words, he was just entering his prime and would only be committed to Miami (and now Toronto) until he was 34.  Ellsbury has already entered his 30s and will only be halfway through his deal with the Yankees by the time he turns 34.  On the date of his 34th birthday (September 11, 2017), Ellsbury will still be owed over $80 million, or about three-quarters of the entire amount of Reyes’ contract.

Ellsbury has played seven years in the major leagues, playing in just over 700 games.  In those seven seasons, Ellsbury has a .297 batting average and a .350 on-base percentage, numbers which were slightly higher than what Reyes produced in his first seven seasons with the Mets (.286 average, .337 OBP).  But Ellsbury doesn’t come close to Reyes in extra-base hits, runs scored and stolen bases – categories that are normally associated with speedsters and leadoff hitters.  In his first seven seasons in the big leagues, Reyes had 47 more extra-base hits, scored 75 more runs and stole 60 more bases than Ellsbury did in his first seven years.  Think about that for a moment.  Ellsbury has won three American League stolen base titles, averaging 57.3 steals in those three campaigns.  That’s still fewer stolen bases than the difference between him (241 SB in seven seasons) and Reyes (301 SB in his first seven seasons) at the start of their respective careers.

And last but not least, Reyes won a batting title in his final year before becoming a free agent.  He also scored 101 runs despite his two stints on the disabled list in 2011.  Meanwhile, Ellsbury has never won a batting title and has only scored 100 or more runs in a season once in his career.  Once.  A leadoff hitter with an explosive offense behind him has only had one season in which he crossed the plate 100 times.  And in that season (2011), he needed to drive himself in 32 times, as he hit that many home runs in what is now widely considered to be a fluke power season.  Ellsbury never managed to reach double digits in home runs in any of his other six major league seasons.  Reyes did it four times in a five-year span from 2006 to 2010.

Jacoby Ellsbury is a great major league player.  But he’s also a player who will turn 31 during the 2014 season, has only scored 100 or more runs as a leadoff hitter once in seven seasons, and has regularly suffered injuries that have caused him to miss months at a time.  If Ellsbury is worth up to $63 million more than Jose Reyes was two years ago when he was only 28 and coming off a season in which he won a batting title, then imagine what Reyes is feeling right now.

He certainly can’t be too happy about it.

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