There is no disputing Jacoby Ellsbury's skills on the field, or the contributions he made toward pushing the Red Sox toward the World Series championship. Nevertheless, Ellsbury's defection to the Yankees this week was greeted with mixed reviews by industry insiders, who balked at the size of his seven-year, $153-million contract.
Evaluators cited Ellsbury's lengthy injury history and his reliance on speed -- which may diminish with age -- as reasons for concern. These also are some of the reasons that the Red Sox never made a major push to retain their centerfielder.
One scout called Ellsbury's skill set "a mixed bag," but also pointed toward Ellsbury's elite defense in the outfield, his ability to create havoc on the bases, and his ability to pound fastballs, which may translate into a possible power bump when his lefty swing arrives at Yankee Stadium. "He's just a terrific athlete," the scout said.
Here's more takes on Ellsbury from talent evaluators:
He's a playmaker: "He's a big piece to what the Red Sox did this year. He plays a premium position, gets on base, and hits on top of the lineup. It's a big loss. From the top of the order, he's getting on base, he's a threat to steal and he hits. You would think there should be an uptick [in home runs]."
Approach at plate: "If he starts, with that short porch, to try and pull too much and hit some home runs as he well could, he's going to ruin his offensive approach. If he stays focused on [getting] on-base, hitting the ball in the gaps, using the whole field, he'll be fine as long as his legs last. That wouldn't be the worst thing to do because . . . in New York, he's probably going to be somewhere between 15, 18, 20 homers and that might be by accident by just drilling some of those mistake fastballs early in the count."
Can he stay healthy? "He plays terrific defense, steals bases, and he'll create runs for you obviously. Speed can decline. To his credit, he keeps himself in good shape, though he's been injury prone which bothers me."
Complementary piece: "When you're paying a guy that kind of money for that length of service, you've got to step back and say can this guy carry the club for 10 days or two weeks. Can he pick us up out of a slump? He's not that guy. Would he be a terrific complementary piece to a club right now? Absolutely."