The Yankees say Jacoby Ellsbury violated his contract by getting unauthorized medical treatment, and they do not plan to pay him the remaining $26 million on the deal, according to multiple reports.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman sent a letter to Ellsbury and his agent, Scott Boras, informing them that the team had converted his contract to a nonguaranteed deal, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press. He was owed a little over $21 million for 2020 and a $5 million buyout for 2021, according to Spotrac.
According to The Associated Press, the Yankees say Ellsbury -- who did not play at all in the 2018 and 2019 seasons -- was treated by Dr. Viktor Bouquette of Progressive Medical Center in Atlanta without the team's permission.
The MLB Players Association said in a statement on Friday that it will defend Ellsbury, who last played in Game 4 of the 2017 American League Championship Series against the Houston Astros.
“The Players Association will vigorously defend any action taken against Jacoby or his contract and is investigating potential contract violations by his employer,” the union said. “Until further notice, we will have no comment.”
The Yankees' decision not to pay Ellsbury was first reported by the New York Post. Cashman and Boras did not immediately respond to requests by The Associated Press for comment.
Ellsbury, 36, was released by the Yankees on Wednesday night before the 8 p.m. deadline to finalize 40-man rosters and protect players from next month’s Rule 5 draft. He was expected to clear waivers Friday.
Centerfielder Aaron Hicks recently had Tommy John surgery on his right elbow and is expected to miss eight to 10 months, creating an opening at the position. Cashman, however, said during his end-of-season news conference last month that Ellsbury was “not someone in a position health-wise where I can answer anything” about whether he could help the team in the outfield in 2020.
Ellsbury did not play in 2018 because of an assortment of injuries that began in spring training, when an oblique issue put him on the injured list to start the season.
He said in June of that year that he planned on playing for the Yankees again that season. “Yeah, oh yeah,” he said when asked if he would play in 2018. “That’s the plan.” He added at the time that he would be playing in rehab games “in the near future.”
Ellsbury, however, had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip in August, putting him out for six months. He also had a problem with the sacroiliac joint in his back that required him to see a specialist.
In 2019, Ellsbury had a bout of plantar fasciitis in his right foot, which delayed his winter preparation and prevented him from starting spring training on time. He did not start baseball activities until March.
Ellsbury spent his first seven seasons with the Red Sox, making one All-Star Game appearance in 2011. He agreed to a seven-year, $153 million deal with the Yankees in December 2013, but appeared in only 520 games the next four seasons.
He appeared in 149 games in 2014, hitting .271 with 16 home runs and 70 RBIs. He played in only 111 games in 2015, spraining his right knee in May of that season. Ellsbury played in 148 games in 2016 but only 112 in an injury-plagued 2017, missing time with a concussion.
Ellsbury appeared in seven postseason games for the Yankees, but six of those games were during the team’s run to the 2017 ALCS. His final appearance with the Yankees was as a pinch runner.
With Laura Albanese and David Lennon