Free Agent Pass or Play: Jacoby Ellsbury – Phillies Nation

Free Agent Pass or Play: Jacoby Ellsbury

Jacoby Ellsbury

Fresh off a World Series win, could Ellsbury be in the Phillies offseason plans?

We are officially beyond CRUNCH TIME – we are literally two minutes (as of posting) away from the start of Free Agency at 12:01 AM November 5. We at Phillies Nation will take a look at a player who will be able to sign with any team at that time. We will explore potential performance, fit, cost, and feasibility. We continue today with left-handed center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury. And a reminder: you can check out all the “Pass or Play” posts by clicking on the category hyperlink.


Ellsbury, 30 on Opening Day in 2014, had the very definition of a bounce-back year in 2013, hitting .298/.355/.426 with nine homers and an AL-leading 52 steals after missing significant time in 2012 due to a partially separated shoulder. Ellsbury bookended his injury-shortened 2012 with an AL MVP runner-up performance in 2011 (.321/.376/.552, 32 HR, 39 SB).

Since becoming an everyday player in 2007, Ellsbury has become among the elite center fielders in baseball, ranking fourth in fWAR in that time among all center fielders. In the same period, Ellsbury has been the fifth most valuable center fielder on defense according to FanGraphs and trails only Michael Bourn and Rajai Davis in base running value in the same time period.

There are minor risks: fluke injuries have limited Ellsbury’s playing time over the last few years and his power has been inconsistent, as evident in his frequently fluctuating slugging percentage.


With Ben Revere already on the roster, the question quickly becomes why would the Phillies explore another center fielder, particularly a left-handed hitting center fielder? Simple: he is an MVP candidate in his prime. A secondary benefit of this move is that Revere would shift presumably to left or right field and immediately turn one of the worst defensive outfields in baseball to one of the National League’s best.


FanGraph’s crowd-sourcing project projects Ellsbury geting $17.5-19 million per year for five to six years. Ellsbury was issued a qualifying offer earlier today so he would cost whichever team signs him their number one pick if the team is not within the Top 10 picks. If the team has a protected pick, the must surrender their second round pick instead.


So, depending on the rest of the Phillies offseason plans, this gets tricky: what caliber of player do you want to address other areas? If the Phillies want to address the bullpen with cheaper or in-house options or don’t anticipate signing a high-priced catcher, Ellsbury might be the player that provides the most bang for their buck. A $17-19 million per year deal would fit within their budget could limit their flexibility if they had another marquee target in mind.

Verdict: Cautious Play

The Phillies should absolutely keep Ellsbury on their radar, although I very much doubt they can or will sign him. Years four and five (and maybe six if he gets six years) will likely be rough for a then-33/34 year old center fielder. Although, as you’ll see in our upcoming off-season plan series, Ellsbury is one of my targets.



  1. Bob D

    November 5, 2013 at 12:27 am

    Ellsbury is my 2nd pick with Choo and his sic OB% as my top pick. Choo has a bit more consistant pop and decent speed. Ellsbury would likely cost more years but defense and speed are hard to ignore along with potential pop.

    They can afford a top OF and then bring in another OF (righty) that may platoon or battle for starting spot on a lesser salary like $5mil or so. Also bring in a quality SP like a Nolasco as the other top player brought in.

    • epiekara

      November 5, 2013 at 2:52 pm

      Bob, the problem with Choo is his inability to hit left handed pitching. Check out these splits:
      181 at bats – 39 hits – 0 homeruns – .215 BA – .265 SLG

      • c. schreiber

        November 5, 2013 at 8:27 pm

        Isn’t that the “Big Fleece, ah Piece”‘s splits.

      • Bob D

        November 6, 2013 at 7:22 am

        Actually I do understand that, but see him as the best OF option. The key is to bring in another righthanded hitting OF and have Ruf available on the bench. Giving an OF of Brown, Choo or Ellsbury, Revere, Righthanded OF (Young would be good), Ruf, & Hernandez.

        Ellsbury and Choo both may get $100mil +/- contracts – are they worth it with Ellsbury’s injury problems or Choo’s age being older? Problem is I’m not sold on high strike out rates and lesser defense from the right handed options of Beltran, Cruz, Granderson and so on. Ellsbury and Choo are better all around in their game – but not perfect.

    • c. schreiber

      November 5, 2013 at 8:25 pm

      We already have him!!!!!!!! Ruf.

  2. Jael

    November 5, 2013 at 8:51 am

    Keep ruiz

  3. wbramh

    November 5, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    Yes to Ellsbury as a major upgrade to Revere in CF and at bat.
    Then find a right-handed power hitter for RF as a second move.

  4. c. schreiber

    November 5, 2013 at 8:33 pm

    Ah, see my post at 0825 pm. RUF, RUF, RUF Why do people forget this potentially 30 HR hitter.

    • schmenkman

      November 5, 2013 at 8:54 pm

      I don’t think anybody is forgetting him. But I for one don’t know yet whether he’s better than Jeremy Giambi (12 HR in 211 PA), John Mayberry Jr (15 in 296), or Wes Chamberlain (12 in 306). After Mayberry’s 2011, they counted on him in 2012, and we know how that turned out.

    • wbramh

      November 6, 2013 at 12:03 am

      I’m not forgetting him.
      He should be platooned at first with Howard.
      If Howard stays healthy (and chances are greater if he’s platooned) the two could combine for 45 Hrs at first. Put Franco at 3rd and you have another 25-30 Hrs from the right side of the plate. Brown offers 30 HRs from the left side, A switch-hitter like Beltran gives you another 25 HRs from the right or left.
      That would be a great upgrade in power and balance and less reason to trade Revere who is never likely to drive in more than 35 RBI or hit a HR unless they move in the fences to behind the pitcher’s mound during his at-bats.

      • Hogey's Role

        November 6, 2013 at 9:06 am

        I like what you said wbramh but idk if they plan to bring Franco up, even with an awesome spring training idk if they would go with him everyday at third…. I would love to see it happen I just don’t know if it would though

  5. Double Trouble Del

    November 5, 2013 at 9:26 pm

    Refresh my memory please. Did I read a post or otherwise hear information which would suggest that the Front Office was prepared to move beyond Ben Revere as an everyday player?

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