July 21, 2011

Epstein Would Like To Sign Ellsbury To Multi-Year Deal

Theo Epstein, WEEI:
It is not a secret that we have sat down and tried in the past and tried to lock Jacoby up in the past, and we will sit down in the future and try and do it again at the appropriate time. He is somebody that we have believed in as a core, young member in the organization that we look to keep around. We have certain organizational standards that have to be met, and we have worked hard to keep those standards with Pedroia and Youkilis and Lester ... so we'd love to one day announce that Jacoby will be with this organization for a long time and this is where he should be and we see him as a core guy.
During the 2008-09 off-season, Epstein signed Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, and Jon Lester to multi-year contracts, one of the high points of Epstein's very successful tenure with the Red Sox:
Pedroia   6/41 - 2009-14; team option (2015)   Signed December 3, 2008
Youkilis  4/42 - 2009-12; team option (2013)   Signed January 16, 2009
Lester    5/30 - 2009-13; team option (2014)   Signed March 15, 2009
At the beginning of this season, Clay Buchholz signed a Lesterque deal:
Buchholz  5/31 - 2011-15; team options (2016-17) Signed April 11, 2011
Bargains: The Red Sox are paying a combined $11.75 million to Pedroia, Lester and Buchholz this year -- a total that will rise to only $19 million next season!

Peter Abraham, Globe:
The Red Sox would need to buy back at least one year of free agency and have an option for another to make a deal with Ellsbury. Basically a contract for 2012, '13 and '14 (his first free agent year) with an team option for '15 and maybe '16, too. Given that Ellsbury is represented by Scott Boras, good luck with that.
It's very unfair that Boras is good at his job*, but one of his client has taken the security of a contract now -- Carlos Gonzalez's 7/80 deal with the Rockies -- rather than assuming the various risks of waiting for a windfall down the road.

* - No, it's not.

Obviously, it's impossible to know what Ellsbury, who is not eligible for free agency until after 2014, when he will be 31, will do. If the team offered him a 5/50 deal this winter, would he take it? Or would he rather play year-to-year and hit the free agent market after 2014? Or would he rather go to arbitration for a year (or two), and then re-assess his situation? There are too many variables -- including his on-field performances and his actual feelings about the organization's perception of him re last year's injuries -- to make even a reasonable guess.

Ellsbury turns 28 in September. As some sort of reference, he's 11 months older than Buchholz, three months older than Lester, and one month younger than Pedroia.

David Pinto of Baseball Musings writes that Ellsbury is
smacking more balls for line drives ... [he's] very good at lining the low outside pitch, but he's also doing better at smacking offerings in the strike zone ... A higher proportion of his fly balls are falling for hits ... despite him not hitting the ball as far on average. ... He's hitting the ball solid and at a good angle, so he gets pure line drives that fall for hits, or long, low flies that hit the gaps.
One of SoSH's better analysts (especially of pitchf/x data) is Sprowl:
The major difference I see in Ellsbury's approach at the plate is that he has retired the Boggs-style defensive opposite-field slap, and on outside pitches he is now using a full-body swing. He always had what used to be called his batting-practice swing, but through 2009 he only brought it out for a few situations, especially changeups from RHP. We didn't see that swing very often, probably because Ellsbury was so vulnerable to high heat that he quickly got into pitcher's counts and had to protect the plate. Now he has the timing and the power to catch up to high fastballs, and pitchers have to respect his ability to drive the ball. Ellsbury's power zone has expanded, and pitchers have started to nibble instead of pounding the strike zone. There are some costs to the new approach -- Ellsbury's K-rate is a career-high 17%, and his walk rate is no better than his career average -- but they are costs the Red Sox will happily incur in return for the power and aggression.
As of this morning, Ellsbury is third in the American League in fWAR with 5.0, behind only Jose Bautista (6.9) and Pedroia (5.4). fWAR is Fangraphs' calculation of Wins Above Replacement. Baseball Reference also uses WAR, but calculates it slightly differently.

The Red Sox have the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 8th, and 9th spots in wOBA and wRC+ in the AL. (Josh Reddick doesn't qualify, but he would rank #2 in both categories). At B-Ref, the top 5 in WAR among position players are: Bautista, Pedroia, Gonzalez, Ellsbury, and Youkilis (who is tied with Adrian Beltre and Ben Zobrist).

How relentless (and unstoppable) is the top half of the Red Sox's batting order?

Ellsbury's .375 on-base percentage is 12th in the AL -- and 5th on his own team (Gonzalez .405, Pedroia .398, Youkilis .397, Ortiz .381).

Likewise, Ellsbury is 5th in times on base (161), but only 3rd-best on the Red Sox (Gonzalez 176, Pedroia 175).


andy said...

Wondering, did Theo make such public statements for the other "core" guys years before their deals were signed?

I hope he means it, but can't help but think that if he did mean it, he probably wouldn't broadcast it on WEEI.

Seems more like an early seed being planted for the future..."Well, as we said back in '11, we wanted him here for the long run..."

allan said...

I don't think it's any secret that Theo would like to sign good young players to cost-effective deals, so it's not like he's really letting any cats out of the bag, but ...

Going by what I posted at JoS (and assuming if there were rumours, I would have mentioned them):

A surprise, coming shortly after he won the MVP. FY: "I'm in a place that I love. My first thought was, "I play for the best team. Who wouldn't want to play for the Boston Red Sox? We're going to have a chance to win every year." The fans are the best; the city embraces their team. ... I wanted to be here a long time. Hopefully in the next six years we can win some championships."

12/28/08 - "early-stage conversations"; yook's agent: "no urgency whatsoever"; youkilis fine either way
12/27/08 - Globe says no contract agreement this winter; yook's agent: "doesn't look promising ... go to arbitration or work out a one-year deal"
1/15/09 - Red Sox Extend Youkilis: 4/40 (JoS): "Good lord, this is a great deal. ... Youkilis, who turns 30 in March, may have had his career year in 2008. Maybe not. Either way, this news almost seems lop-sided in Boston's favour. And Youkilis is set for life and will likely have a solid shot at the playoffs every year of his career. Everyone is (or should be) very happy."

Looks like a surprise.
3/8/09 - Red Sox, Lester Agree On 5/30 Extension
JoS: "So this winter, Boston has locked up Lester for five years, Kevin Youkilis for four years, and Dustin Pedroia for six years for a total of $111 million -- or roughly 2/3 of what the Yankees will pay 300-pound pitcher CC Sabathia for eight years. Toss in the low-risk, high-reward signings of John Smoltz and Brad Penny and this has been a magnificent winter for Theo Epstein."

andy said...

It's not that he is letting this big secret out, that was kind of my point. Obviously they would want to lock up a blossoming stud at a favorable rate for a long time. Why say as much on WEEI and why now? You know?

thanks for the research regarding my question, you're the man.

allan said...

It's not that he is letting this big secret out, that was kind of my point.

Maybe the only newsy part of it is that they believe he is fully healthy and can produce as they had hoped and are now willing to commit $$$.