Ellsbury to Cincinnati?

Dan Szymborski of FanGraphs.com held a chat on Monday. In it was this gem:

12:07
Comment From Guest

Jacoby Ellsbury has had wild fluctuations in performance throughout his career. What’s he actually worth this offseason and what will he get paid? Where do you think he ends up?

12:08
Dan Szymborski:

I think the Mets actually make a play for him

12:09
Dan Szymborski:

Predicting where palyers will end up before the season is even over is a fool’s errand! There will be plenty of interest – maybe Rangers or Mariners or even a team like the Reds

Choo2With Shin-Soo Choo eligible for free agency after the season, the Reds could be looking at other options in center field, just in case Choo were to get an offer from, say, the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, or another deep-pocketed club; however, whatever team doesn’t sign Choo will likely be all over the slightly younger Ellsbury as another option.
As I wrote in another recent article, there are plenty of options out there as options in center(Curtis Granderson, Chris Young, or cost-effective, homegrown talent in Billy Hamilton), but would the smartest investment for Cincinnati be the current Red Sox center fielder or attempting to re-sign their current leadoff star?

When looking at the careers of Choo and Ellsbury, they are both solid leadoff hitters:

Choo:

I Split G GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB BAbip
Batting 1st 218 217 1009 849 154 252 60 3 29 81 27 129 209 .297 .406 .477 .883 405 .364
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/28/2013.

Ellsbury:

I Split G GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB BAbip
Batting 1st 579 575 2726 2481 398 724 140 28 47 246 197 185 358 .292 .345 .428 .772 1061 .324
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/28/2013.

Ellsbury2There is some give and take for both players, but considering that both are represented by Scott Boras, is this worth taking time and effort for Cincinnati given their eventual need to extend Mat Latos, Homer Bailey, and Aroldis Chapman over the next three seasons?

Ellsbury is 29 years old, turning 30 in September, while Choo turned 31 in July. Outside of their relatively close age, they are drastically different players.

Choo, who would be wise to market himself as a leadoff hitter (even though he has had very productive seasons hitting in the middle of the order for the Cleveland Indians), is an on-base machine, currently sporting a .412 OBP (2nd to teammate Joey Votto in the NL), while possessing enough speed (16 stolen bases) and power (46 extra-base hits) to be considered an extremely valuable, all-around player. While his defense in center is borderline inappropriate (last among qualified CF with a UZR/150 of -17.9), he still possesses an above average arm and his experience in right allows for a bit of roster and positional flexibility, though the Reds wouldn’t need much help in right, barring a Jay Bruce injury. After making $7.38 million in his final year of arbitration, he will likely command between $13 and $15 million per season on the open market, especially after Boras refers to Nick Swisher‘s four-year, $56 million deal as a starting point.

EllsburyEllsbury is a peculiar player, having busted out in 2011 with 83 extra-base hits (including 32 home runs) while leading MLB in total bases (364), while following that season up with all of 11 home runs over his last 909 plate appearances. It seems as though Ellsbury will be able to present himself as a speedster with gap power and above average defensive skills at a premium position, as he is currently 4th among qualified CF in UZR/150 (12.4) while leading MLB in stolen bases (47) and racking up 44 extra-base hits (he leads the AL in triples with eight and has seven home runs). Similar to Michael Bourn in his skillset since the 2011 outburst, Ellsbury will likely get a slightly better contract than the Indians’ center fielder, who signed a four-year, $48 million deal this past offseason, if only because Scott Boras can play into the fact that Ellsbury had such a dramatic 2011 season as a selling point.

While Ellsbury is slightly younger and could, potentially, be a little cheaper than Choo in the free agent market, who is the best option for the Reds?

With a need for top of the order speed, on-base skills, and defensive skills, Ellsbury, in my opinion, would be the best option for Cincinnati; however, the question remains – should the club consider locking up a big-money, free agent center fielder when the club needs to be concerned with the costs of Homer Bailey and Mat Latos in arbitration?


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