August 8, 2018

Ellsbury Has Hip Surgery; Yankees Still Owe Him More Than $70 Million

Yankees (and former Red Sox) outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left hip on Monday, guaranteeing that he will not play a single inning in 2018.

Despite his inactivity, Ellsbury will still earn more than $21 million this year. That is more than the Yankees will pay to Didi Gregorius, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Dellin Betances, Aaron Hicks, Austin Romine, Greg Bird, Miguel Andujar, and Gleyber Torres combined.

Ellsbury is also guaranteed almost $70 million over the next three seasons ($21,142,857 per). After 2021, he will get another $5 million when the Yankees buy out his option rather than pay him another $21 million for 2022.

The Ellsbury Doughboy signed that 7/153 deal on December 3, 2013, shortly after winning his second World Series with the Red Sox. The Daily News gloated:

The ink on that contract wasn't dry for very long before some New York sportswriters were saying this was a horrible deal for the Yankees, an opinion shared by many fans on both sides of the rivalry.

Mike Lupica (Daily News) said it was "the kind of insane longterm contract that got [the Yankees] into the kind of fix they are in in the first place". Bill Madden (Daily News) admitted: "I'm just not sure what the Yankees are trying to prove here." He said the contract "will almost certainly be another financial disaster three or four years down the road".

As it turns out, the end of the 2018 season is "four years down the road". Madden's prediction was not particularly daring, though, because Ellsbury's deal was a sinkhole from the very start. If you look at his OPS+ numbers, the 2011 season was an extreme outlier. Excluding two seasons because of limited playing time (2007 (33 games) and 2010 (10 games)), these are his OPS+ numbers, with a / indicating when he changed teams:
88, 98, 146, 84, 113 / 111, 83, 88, 97
Ellsbury has been an above league-average hitter in only three of those eight seasons. He slugged .552 in 2011, but has never topped .426 in any other year. Similarly, both his average and on-base percentage in 2011 were 20 points higher than he has achieved in any other season.

Some more advanced stats show a huge drop in production:
        wRC+   RAA     WAA
2011    150     58     6.0
2013    112     33     3.8
2014    109     10     1.3
2015     83      0     0.1
2016     91      5     0.6
2017    101      3     0.3
wRC+: Weighted Runs Created - quantifies a player's total offensive value and measures it by runs; park and league-adjusted (FanGraphs: "wRC+ is the most comprehensive rate statistic used to measure hitting performance because it takes into account the varying weights of each offensive action and then adjusts them for the park and league context in which they took place.")
RAA: Runs Above Average - # of runs better than a league average player
WAA: Wins Above Average - # of wins added above that of an average player
Rather than paying the major league minimum (or a little for that meager level of production, the Yankees have been shelling out more than $20 million a year. The Red Sox have not been sorry for a long time, if they ever were.


Bill said...

Just a minor correction to your last paragraph: you pay major league minimum for ~0 WAR, but not for ~0 WAA. Replacement level players are worth the minimum (because you should be able to replace them for no more than that), but average players are worth about the average. It sounds crazy, but in the FA market, an average player can expect well above $10m/year.

Ellsbury's being overpaid for sure, but I think by about $7m/year so far, not by nearly the entire value of the contract.

Shawn K said...

Even at the time it seemed to me to be a monumentally stupid signing on their part. But holy wow, it never occurred to me that it would be the disaster it proved to be. I figured he'd be above average for a few years, with some great stretches and that the contract would only turn into a real albatross for the final 3 years. It's been an albatross from the beginning and now it's as if he's not even on the team. Just sitting ass at home collecting the crazy money.

Thank God he turned down the Sox offer after 2011. It was really the best of both worlds- helped us win a couple of world series, almost single handedly prevented the 11 collapse, and then received one of the worst contracts in the history of sports from the Yanks.

allan said...

I just noticed a draft post dated April 20, 2016:

Yankees' Worst Contract? It May Be Ellsbury

The New York Yankees signed free agent outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury to a seven-year, $153 million contract on December 3, 2013, only a few weeks after Ellsbury helped Boston win its third World Series championship in ten years.

Fast forward a couple of seasons, and Ellsbury's deal - which seems like a gross overpay even at the time - may be the worst contract on an aging team bloated with veterans making more money than their production warrants. The Yankees are paying Ellsbury $21,142,857.15 annually through 2020. For 2021, when Ellsbury will be 37, there is either a $21M club option or a $5M buyout.

In the Yankees' first nine games of this season, Ellsbury, as the team's leadoff hitter, has a team-worst .244 on-base average. All of his batting numbers are trending downward. About the only thing going up is his strikeout rate.

2013 BOS .298 .355 .426 .781
2014 NYY .271 .328 .419 .747
2015 NYY .257 .318 .345 .663
2016 NYY .225 .244 .325 .569

NYY stats .263 .321 .384 .705 98 OPS+

SB% NYY 80.7
SB% BOS 83.9

WAR with NYY in 2+ years - 5.2
WAR with BOS in 2013 - 5.7