The Yankees pulled off perhaps the most stunning move of the offseason Tuesday night, swiping outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury away from the world champion Red Sox.
Ellsbury and the Yankees agreed to the terms of a seven-year, $153-million contract, according to a source, though the deal is still pending a physical. The signing has several important implications for the Yankees, who signaled what appears to be the end of the their mandate to cap payroll at $189 million.
Ellsbury, 30, hit .298 with nine homers and 52 stolen bases in 134 games. Though he has battled injuries throughout his career, he also has been a dynamic presence. His best season was 2011, when he hit .321 with 32 homers and 105 RBIs while swiping 39 bases, earning a second-place finish in voting for the AL Most Valuable Player.
With the Yankees, Ellsbury will likely hit at the top of the lineup while taking over in centerfield. The Stadium's short porch will likely favor his lefthanded swing.
Even after the aggressive move to lure Ellsbury, whose glove, speed and occasional pop made him a force for the Red Sox, the Yankees may be only getting started.
The Yankees are on the verge of signing second baseman Kelly Johnson to a one-year year deal worth between $2.75 million and $3 million, according to a report in Wednesday's New York Post.
The signing of Kelly, who played for the Rays last season, would give the Yankees insurance in case they are unable to re-sign Robinson Cano. According to sources, the club still hopes to retain Cano, even though negotiations have cooled because of a $100-million gulf between the sides.
The Yankees also have had discussions with free agent Shin-Soo Choo, a seemingly expensive luxury item because the team already has a crowded outfield.
They also had been linked to Carlos Beltran, even though indications are that he may find a three-year deal elsewhere. According to sources, the Yankees are unlikely to move past a two-year offer. Beltran visited Tuesday with his original team, the Royals, who have emerged as suitors.
Adding Ellsbury likely will shape the Yankees' efforts to re-sign Cano. On Tuesday, ESPNNewYork.com reported the Mariners have emerged as serious bidders for Cano, and might be willing to offer a $200-million deal.
"Not everybody can afford a player like Robbie, but there's players out there that can afford it, I'm sure,'' said Yankees GM Brian Cashman, who spoke only generally about interest in Cano. "So, I'm not surprised. Great player.''
Cano's last proposal was for nine years in the $260-million range with a reachable vesting option for a 10th season worth $28 million. The Yankees have held firm with a seven-year deal worth roughly $160 million. The Yankees might come up from that figure, though nowhere close to approaching $200 million, a source said.
The Yankees suddenly appear unconcerned about their self-imposed spending restrictions, put in place in 2011 by owner Hal Steinbrenner in hopes of qualifying for rebates under baseball's revenue-sharing rules.
After the Yankees missed the playoffs in 2008, they spent $423 million to bring in CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett. After missing the postseason last season, they appear to be preparing for another spree.
Earlier in the day, the Yankees officially announced their signing of catcher Brian McCann to a five-year deal worth $85 million that includes a vesting option for 2019.
"Our work this offseason has just begun,'' Steinbrenner said in a statement. "But we feel this is an important step toward what will be an exciting and rewarding 2014 season for our fans.''
Roughly eight hours later, the Yankees had come to terms with Ellsbury.