Last offseason the Boston Red Sox were faced with a tough decision on their homegrown superstar, impending free agent Jacoby Ellsbury. Rumors told us the Red Sox put five years for just under $100 million (and possibly six years around $123 million) on the table. Ellsbury ultimately signed for seven years and $153 million with the New York Yankees.
The Red Sox set the parameters they were willing to go and stuck to it. They missed Ellsbury badly this past season as evidence of the .216/.293/.314 slash line their center fielders produced. That .607 centerfielder OPS was 28th in baseball.
Last season the Red Sox also had third base issues. They badly wanted Will Middlebrooks to be the guy and gave him every chance to take over the position. He struggled. Eventually Xander Bogaerts was moved back to third after they re-signed Stephen Drew. All-in-all eight Red Sox third basemen hit .211 (the worst in baseball) and posted an OPS of .580 (the second-worst in baseball).
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Now rumors are circulating that the Red Sox might be willing to meet Pablo Sandoval’s $100 million demands. Reactions have been swift and condemning:
Re: Boston perhaps bidding heavily on Sandoval, vs. Ellsbury: Over the last four years, Ellsbury has played 515 games, Sandoval 523
This paints a nice picture of how lopsided Boston’s priorities might be, but it’s also extremely misleading. The previous four seasons going into free agency Ellsbury had actually only played in 384 games, Sandoval 523. Sandoval has never played fewer than 100 games in any full season; Ellsbury has done it twice.
And over the last four seasons, Sandoval has 65 homers. Ellsbury: 57.
On the home runs, Sandoval has been a model of consistency in his past four seasons hitting 23, 12, 14 and 16. Ellbury’s four seasons going in to free agency went 0, 32, 4 and 9. Those 32 home runs were a major red flag. Ellsbury had never hit 20 in a season before — and hasn’t since — at any level. AT&T Park has also ranked dead last in three of the past four seasons in HR Park Factors.
If you’ve paid attention to baseball at all in recent years, you’ll understand that this is the kicker: Pablo Sandoval is three years younger than Jacoby Ellsbury.
Ellsbury is a great player, but I cannot fault the Red Sox for sticking to their guns. Sandoval at $100 million makes sense and I’d even consider his sixth year if that is what it’s going to take. Boston may not.
On Jon Lester, though? I can get on board with giving them a hard time for not making a stronger push to keep him last year.