Depending on how you value Ellsbury, there are two ways to view this option. One, the Red Sox should trade him now before his stock drops further as his MVP-caliber season goes farther into the rear-view mirror. Two, they should keep him and let him rebuild value in the first half rather than sell low following the disappointing year he just had. It’s worth noting that if Ellsbury is traded at the deadline, his new team wouldn’t be able to recoup draft pick compensation if he signs elsewhere. That will factor into trade talks.
Determining a proper return given the last few years is very tough. Is this a situation like Matt Holliday, who was a legit star when he was traded from the Rockies to the Athletics? Is he the inconsistent Melky Cabrera going from the Royals to the Giants? Is he worth more in a deal than Shin-Soo Choo? The Red Sox have a number of holes on the big league roster and could fill one or two (or three?) by moving Ellsbury this winter. There’s no shortage of teams in need of a center fielder, especially one who has demonstrated the ability to be an impact player.
Fangraphs | Jacoby Ellsbury's three outcomes
Mike Axisa covers the Red Sox' options with Jacoby Ellsbury (much like I did here a few weeks back) and essentially concludes that the team should either sign him long term or trade him. He doesn't come out and say it, but if you read the piece it sounds like he most advocates trading Jacoby.
It all comes down to -- like with virtually any roster move -- what people are willing to pay. If you can find anyone to compensate you for a near-MVP-level performance, I think you have to do it. If the wider market sees him as inferior to Shin-Soo Choo, then we have issues.
Probably the Sox' best move is to lay low and deny they want to trade him (check), and monitor the BJ Upton market carefully. Let's say the Nationals (as widely suspected) court Upton pretty significantly, but at the last second the Yankees swoop in and give him $90 million. Next day, Ben should call up the Nationals and see what they'd part with to get Ellsbury, and maybe their willingness to fill that role will result in a better package coming Boston's way.
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