Early on Thursday morning, Jon Heyman wrote an article about Jacoby Ellsbury possibly waiving his no-trade clause to accept a trade to the Giants. This was not a piece of breaking news that suggested they are interested or have been poking around. It was just a note, communicated to a writer by somebody with knowledge of Ellsbury’s thinking, suggesting that there might be a fit.
I would like to answer on behalf of the Giants, if I may. That answer is this: Thanks, but nah.
While the paring would be incredibly, irrefutably Giants — they have a legacy of getting a center fielder a year or two too late, from Dave Roberts to Steve Finley to Aaron Rowand — there are far too many red flags for this one. Consider that ...
Ellsbury is left-handed
I don’t want to sound like a broken record here. Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, and Joe Panik are all left-handed, too, and I’m happy they’ll all be on the 2018 Giants. It’s possible to be a left-handed hitter and help the Giants win.
But AT&T Park certainly wouldn’t help Ellsbury. And every time an opponent would come in with a right-handed center fielder, it would be a de facto advantage for them, especially considering that Ellsbury wasn’t exactly a thumper in Yankee Stadium.
It’s more than that, though. Another left-handed hitter would give the Giants at least four in the lineup, which would expose them to late-inning relievers. None of them have egregious platoon splits from year to year, but it would be hard to build a lineup without stacking a few of them in a row, especially if they go after Jay Bruce for the other lineup hole.
Additionally, if Steven Duggar starts hitting his way into a role, it would be much tougher to find him at-bats if he’s essentially replicating the incumbent’s skill set. There’s no way to mix and match Duggar and Ellsbury, and I have a sneaking suspicion that one wouldn’t be more productive than the other in 2018.
This is all a tease for my SIGN AUSTIN JACKSON, DUMMIES post, but that’s still a work in progress.
Ellsbury has no power
Dude was a left-handed hitter in Yankee Stadium, and he hit four homers there last year in 55 games. He did lots of other things right — fine average, nice on-base percentage -- but he’s not getting the ball over the fence.
That’s fine. I’ve argued for Billy Hamilton and Jarrod Dyson, and they have even less power. But if the Giants get a left-handed hitter who doesn’t have power to begin with, he’d better be a Gold Glove candidate. Which ...
Ellsbury’s defense probably won’t make him a Gold Glove candidate
Pretty okay. That’s the report on Ellsbury’s defense that I’m getting from people who watched him all year, and that’s the report that the stats are suggesting, too. He definitely wouldn’t hurt the Giants as much as Span did defensively last year. He was a fine hitter and defender last year, just as he was the year before that. And the year before that. Really, he’s been a solid center fielder in every season since 2010*, so he’s almost comparable to Evan Longoria when it comes to his low floor and healthy ceiling.
* when the Giants won the World Series the first time
At the same time, he’ll be 34. I don’t trust 34-year-old center fielders. One click slower, and they’re a disaster compared to their peers. Andres Torres might have been the best center fielder the Giants employed since Darren Lewis, but he wasn’t quite the same in 2011, and it was a marked difference. It’s such an easy pit for over-30 center fielders to fall into.
Also, as long as we’re on the subject, it’s a good time to remember that Andres Torres came out of absolutely nowhere to help the Giants win the World Series*.
* in 2010
Ellsbury might be fine next year. He might be fine the year after that. But he’s not a Kiermaier/Pillar/Hamilton/Buxton type where he would be valuable even with a .280 OBP. If he struggles with the glove, his bat won’t be enough to prop up his value. If he struggles with his bat, the glove won’t be enough to prop up his value. That’s a risky combo for a guy in his mid-30s.
He wouldn’t be free
If the Yankees offered to pay Ellsbury’s entire salary and trade him in exchange for, say, Pablo Sandoval (for trolling purposes), that would be one thing. I would like a free Ellsbury. He would make the current 25-man roster better. He would help the 2018 Giants win more games than the roster they currently employ.
But the Yankees aren’t looking to trade him because they want to do him a favor. They’re not looking to trade him because he sings Kottonmouth Kings songs in the clubhouse even after he’s politely asked to stop. They want to save money to get under the luxury tax. Just like the Giants.
That’s the biggest problem. I can deal with the lefty-heavy lineup. I can deal with the lack of power and the uncertainty of his glove at AT&T. All of that is preferable to, say, Gorkys Hernandez,. But how much salary would the Giants have to absorb? If it’s anything close to $6 million, I’d rather have Dyson and get the relative certainty of a perennial Gold Glove candidate.
Or I’d rather have Austin Jackson. Sweet, sweet Austin Jackson, who would be the perfect complement to Duggar if he’s ready next year.
I suppose there’s a chance that the Yankees could need something like $3 million to squeak under the cap after signing Alex Cobb, and the Giants will be willing to pay Ellsbury something like $3 million because it would still allow them to pay Jay Bruce $14 million, so I’m not saying this trade is impossible or nonsensical. There are ways to put Ellsbury on the Giants that would make sense. He’s still a pretty good player, after all, and I don’t want to diminish that important point. If the Giants miraculously swung a trade for Domingo Santana, for example, I would definitely have more interest in Ellsbury.
But there sure would be a lot of ifs, and the downside would be pretty substantial.
Say, that sounds like the 2018 Giants. There are going to be a lot of ifs, and the downside would be pretty substantial.
When you put it like that, maybe ... well, maybe this is fate.