Originally posted on The Baseball Page  |  Last updated 9/18/12

Chances are, Jacoby Ellsbury will not sign a long-term extension with the Boston Red Sox and enter the free agent market after next season. Whether or not he gets a payday that tops $20 million a year over five or more seasons depends on the numbers he posts in 2013 – numbers that are directly tied to his health.

The 29-year-old Ellsbury has been one of the most productive tablesetters in baseball during years when he has 500 or more at-bats – like in 2008 when he hit .280 with 50 stolen bases and 2009 when he recorded a .301 average to accompany 70 steals. Last season, he showed he can be a run producer as well, hitting .321 with 32 home runs, 105 RBI and 39 stolen bases.

Ellsbury would be a sure bet for a monstrous contract if the freak injuries of 2010 and this year did not occur. In 2010, he was limited to 18 games and 78 at-bats (and a .192 average) after suffering broken ribs during a collision with then Red Sox third baseman Adrian Beltre. This year, he missed a chunk of the season after dislocating his shoulder when Tampa Bay shortstop Reid Brignac fell on him during a slide into second base.

On Monday night at Tampa Bay, Ellsbury showed just how valuable he can be to the Red Sox lineup when he is healthy. The center fielder broke up Alex Cobb’s no-hitter in the top of the sixth inning by ripping a two-run home run in Boston’s 5-2 victory over the Rays. Ellsbury also added two singles and finished with a stat line of 3-for-5, three RBI and one run. On the season, he is hitting .273 with four home runs and 23 RBI in just 275 at-bats.

Clearly, Ellsbury will benefit from using the off-season to rebuild strength in his injured shoulder so he can return in 2013 and have a monstrous year as he enters free agency. The Red Sox would be wise to reap the fruits of the “walk” season, make him a qualifying offer (which he would undoubtedly reject) and get the draft pick compensation if he chooses to sign long term elsewhere.

 

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