The Boston Red Sox will trade Jacoby Ellsbury after signing Shane Victorino to a three year contract worth $39 million. That is the new trendy deal with Boston, having already signed Mike Napoli to the same contract. Now, while the Red Sox are saying that Victorino will likely play right field in 2013 while Ellsbury enters his final year of his contract with the Red Sox, it is now all but inevitable that the team will look to trade the center fielder.
It is just a matter of time.
Boston has unable to lock up Ellsbury for the long term. They are scared of his proneness to suffering severe injuries, and they have also called him out on multiple occasions about taking more time to recover than they felt was necessary. The bad blood has boiled over, and Ellsbury seems to have little to no intention to remain with the Red Sox past the 2013 MLB season after his current contract expires.
With that being said, as I have been saying for months now, the time to trade Ellsbury is now. Many teams are looking to retool or reload, and the number of free agents available is not that attractive. Sure, teams can go out and sign Michael Bourn or Josh Hamilton, but both are going to be extremely pricey, and both come with question marks. Nick Swisher and Cody Ross and Ichiro Suzuki are also all available, although there are pros and cons when it comes to giving them a lucrative long term deal.
Teams may consider Ellsbury a more sure thing. It is already rumored that the Arizona Diamondbacks have dangled Justin Upton once again, and that the New York Yankees are listening to offers for Curtis Granderson. Trading either one of those players really does not make sense for either one of those teams, unless they can get back a No. 1 starting pitcher as well as another position starting player.
Boston dealing Ellsbury for a starting pitcher makes perfect sense. And whereas Boston unloaded payroll last season with a pair of massive trades, they are clearly not shying away from spending again this offseason, having already committed $78 million over the next three years to just two players.
Moving Ellsbury will bring in a top starting pitcher, as many teams need center fielders. The Philadelphia Phillies immediately come to mind, and they would love to move one large salary in order to bring in a bat. Moving Cliff Lee has been thrown out there on more than one occasion over the past six months, and rumors of a Lee-for-Upton swap have already been mentioned. But if the Red Sox aggressively went to the Phillies and offered Ellsbury for Lee, they may be hard pressed to turn down this deal.
Victorino is durable. Ellsbury is not. Victorino is happy to be in Boston. Ellsbury is not. I don’t know what exactly the Red Sox can get in return for Ellsbury, but at this point, it does not matter. They have to trade him, and do so sooner rather than later. Boston cannot risk starting the season with both Ellsbury and Victorino, and have Ellsbury get off to a poor start, thus lowering his trade value.
If he is leaving anyway, Boston has to be smart enough to realize trading Ellsbury now is much better than simply letting him walk for a pair of draft picks in the future.
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