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Jacoby Ellsbury's agent, Scott Boras, has said that he wants Carl Crawford money for his client. Crawford, who signed with the Red Sox after the 2010 season got $142 million over 7 years (that's the benchmark for Boras for his newest client). Is that a reasonable goal for Ellsbury? Some think so. I'm not sure I do.
Before that, here's why he might be worth as much or maybe even more than Crawford.
- Ellsbury, 2011-2013: .303/.356/.469, 15 HR, 35 SB, 4.9 WAR
- Crawford, 2008-2010: .297/.349/.454, 14 HR, 44 2B, 4.8 WAR
Boras thinks that because Ellsbury is a CF that it makes him more valuable, but that's already baked into the WAR calculations. That said, using rWAR, which was what was used in these calculations, it's fairly clear that Ellsbury is Crawford in terms of value.
The reason I think Ellsbury gets less is that it was rather well known at the time that the Yankees showed interest in Crawford in order to get the Red Sox to pay a higher price. It was well known by myself and berselius at least, that what the Red Sox gave Crawford was a rather large overpay. Some tried to rationalize the signing. "Boston is smart and so it must be." It wasn't. It was a bad signing at the time and it was only for that much because the Red Sox really really wanted Crawford and bought that the Yankees were interested.
This isn't likely to happen again. Theo is gone in Boston and the new front office hasn't been as eager to sink a ton of money into free agency. Neither has Theo since coming to the Cubs for what it's worth.
The Red Sox surely would like to have Ellsbury back, but they've got a limit on what they'll pay and they won't go over it. The Yankees also have interest, but that same fake out isn't going to work. It won't likely work anywhere else. The Cubs and Cardinals just don't have the same kind of rivalry.
Furthermore, the Carl Crawford contract has proven to be even more disastrous than I imagined it would be. Crawford has been terrible. It would be unfair to say that the same will happen to Ellsbury because it happened to Crawford. It could, but it could happen to anyone. It's more likely not going to happen though.
However, the Crawford contract and its horrible result is a poor example to use for Boras. Everyone in the game knows how awful it's worked out. Every GM in the game wants to avoid a contract like that with the exception of the Dodgers, but they have their own printing press so it's no big deal in LA. Not to mention, many knew it was a terrible contract at the time.
I won't be surprised if Ellsbury ends up getting a contract similar to Crawford. I don't think it happens, but it only takes one team. I think somewhere around 7 years for $110 million is more reasonable. I'd be happy if the Cubs got Ellsbury for $120 million over 7 years too. Anything over that and I think you're looking at a rate that Ellsbury just won't live up to. But if any team thinks he's worth nearly $150 million they should open a william hill betting account today!
I also think durability is more of a concern for Ellsbury and that almost always comes into play. Over the past 4 years, Ellsbury has missed nearly the entire 2010 season and half of the 2012 season. He also played in only 134 games this past year. Craword's fewest games played in the four years prior to leaving the Rays was 109. He played full seasons in each of the other seasons. Simply put, you could count on Crawford to play more in the future than you could Ellsbury at time of their free agency. That's got to cost Ellsbury some dollars.