Editor's note: Didier Morais will review each position for the Red Sox for the 2013 season.
Jacoby Ellsbury has been a mystery during his career with the Red Sox.
Through his first three seasons in Boston, the outfielder blossomed into a slightly above-average contributor. He sparked the offense with his baserunning and a solid batting average, but he only mustered up 20 home runs in that span.
Then in 2011, Ellsbury churned out an unprecedented performance by his standards, finishing as the runner-up for the American Leage MVP award after delivering 32 homers, 105 RBIs, 39 steals and a .321 average.
While we've seen his unique athletic ability, Ellsbury has still experienced issues staying on the field. The 29-year-old missed significant chunks of the 2010 and 2012 seasons with a flurry of injuries.
Six years into his major league career, Ellsbury is still a question mark. Was his 2011 season just a fluke or a sign of things to come? Is he really injury prone or just unlucky?
Ellsbury, who will be a free agent after the 2013 season, and agent Scott Boras will try to leverage the 2011 season for a lucrative contract. They'll likely point to Carl Crawford's seven-year, $142 contract as a starting point for negotiations. Given the uncertainty surrounding Ellsbury and the fact that the Red Sox plan to curtail their big spending, it should make for an interesting storyline. The onus thus falls on Boston general manager Ben Cherington to decide Ellsbury's fate.
If Cherington foresees an inability to come to a reasonable agreement, perhaps he'll explore the possibility of trading the outfielder. Ellsbury's youth and skill set brings value, which could result in the Red Sox gaining a needed pitcher in return.
The team also has a budding center field prospect in Jackie Bradley Jr. waiting in the wings. Bradley's ETA in the majors could coincide with the end of Ellsbury's contract, possibly giving Boston added leverage.
Should Ellsbury remain with the Red Sox, the 2013 season will be monumental for his career. He'll have a chance to either validate his 2011 exploits or become relegated to a one-hit wonder.
The Red Sox are hoping for the former.
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