December 04, 2013

SportsFilter: The Wednesday Huddle:

A place to discuss the sports stories that aren't making news, share links that aren't quite front-page material, and diagram plays on your hand. Remember to count to five Mississippi before commenting in anger.

posted by huddle to general at 06:00 AM - 20 comments

Jacoby Ellsbury gets $153million for 7 years?!
Almost $22million/yr for a player that has had one healthy season in the past four?
For a player that has one great season in the past four?

The Yankees are nuts.

posted by grum@work at 08:30 AM on December 04, 2013

By the way, I've expanded the "Northern Illinois for the BCS title game!" matrix.

If Ohio State loses to Michigan State, or Florida State loses to Duke, and Northern Illinois beats Bowling Green, then:

Northern Illinois beat Iowa.
Iowa beat Iowa State.
Iowa State beat West Virginia.
West Virginia beat Oklahoma State.
Oklahoma State beat Mississippi State.
Mississippi State beat Ole Miss.
Ole Miss beat Vanderbilt.
Vanderbilt beat Georgia.
Georgia beat LSU. (Alternate 1: Georgia beat South Carolina) (Alternate 2: Georgia beat Georgia Tech)
LSU beat Auburn. (Alternate 1: South Carolina beat Missouri) (Alternate 2: Georgia Tech beat Duke)
(Alternate 3: Duke beat Virginia Tech)
(Alternate 3: Virginia Tech beat Pittsburgh)
(Alternate 3: Pittsburgh beat Notre Dame)
(Alternate 3: Notre Dame beat Michigan State)

Northern Illinois for the BCS title game!

posted by grum@work at 08:50 AM on December 04, 2013

The Yankees are nuts.

The deal absolutely could work out for them, but as a Sox fan I feel like this might be the 4th or 5th best thing Ellsbury's done for us (after his MVP-esque 2011 season, last year, the 2007 World Series and something I'm probably forgetting). At the end of the McCann deal, they will be paying $15 million for a 35 year-old catcher and $22 million for a brittle 35 year-old center fielder. I know speed guys age more gracefully than power hitters and I know Ellsbury is capable of great seasons, but you wonder how many of them will be worth $22 million going forward. He's only had 2 worth more according to FanGraphs math (admittedly, 2011 was worth almost twice that).

posted by yerfatma at 09:08 AM on December 04, 2013

I know speed guys age more gracefully than power hitters

And here's a FanGraphs article discussing that in terms of Ellsbury. They like his prospects but are looking at them without any consideration of injury risk (as far as I could see). Semi-related, here's an update on how compensatory picks work in baseball as of last year's changes.

posted by yerfatma at 10:36 AM on December 04, 2013

The Yankees are nuts

Ellsbury is a solid player but that contract is simply foolish. He's a top notch base runner and defender -when healthy- but essentially more of a role player than a superstar. And his game is completely dependent on his health and athleticism, both of which will deteriorate during the term of the contract. My guess is he has 2 or 3 highly productive years maximum remaining.

I see it as simply an attempt by the Yanks to weaken an opponent for a year or 2. With the Red Sox having a lot of young talent in their organization waiting to step up losing Ellsbury hurts but isn't crippling.

posted by cixelsyd at 10:37 AM on December 04, 2013

essentially more of a role player than a superstar

I'd love to see the superstars in the league you watch. Ellsbury had a season of 9.1 WAR and has had 5.8 and 4.1 seasons. Going by FanGraph's WAR, he was the most valuable player in all of baseball in 2011. Admittedly last year he dropped all the way to 13th among position players.

posted by yerfatma at 11:31 AM on December 04, 2013

I feel about Scott Boras the same wistful way that Superman feels about Lex Luthor. "What a tragedy that such a bright mind hasn't dedicated his talents to doing good in the world".

I have ambled about through Sox country in the hours since the Ellsbury deal was announced, and here's what I've found among the faithful:

- If the Sox had signed Ellsbury for that kind of money with that length of contract term, all hell would have broken loose and we would soon be watching a new feature length film entitled "Cherington's Afire".

- I found a group of five Sox fans in line at a Dunkin Donuts who were utterly dismayed by the deal and animatedly discussing it among themselves. Each and every one of them was a lively, happening young suburban woman on her way to the gym. I don't think I have to add that not once were any baseball statistics or strategic contractual points brought into the discussion.

posted by beaverboard at 12:44 PM on December 04, 2013

Part 1 of a 3-part series by Peter King providing a look at the life of officials in the NFL. Hopefully the rest will be as good.

posted by yerfatma at 01:56 PM on December 04, 2013

He's a top notch base runner and defender -when healthy- but essentially more of a role player than a superstar.

If he's a role player, then there are probably 10 superstars in the league, tops.

$153m for a player of Ellsbury's calibre today is totally reasonable - however, looking at his age and the issues he's had over the last couple of seasons, it's the amount of risk you're taking that's unreasonable. He's got a great ceiling, but his entire game (assuming the 32 homer season is a fluke) is predicated on foot speed. Speed players can age gracefully, or, through injury can become Carl Crawford in no time. A couple of groin tears/pulls as his body ages and his whole value is zapped.

It's the risk, not the player's ceiling, that makes this contract pretty crazy, especially when the Red Sox might have Jackie Bradley with them in a year or two.

posted by dfleming at 02:14 PM on December 04, 2013

Yeah, exactly dfleming. From a WAR level, the deal isn't actually a bad one- because in a sense most players with average WAR over 2 are actually underpaid. But that's the big catch: these deals aren't signed to cover the WAR you'd ideally get, but as a balance between the team getting a discount on win costs and the player getting a longer, certain payout. Ellsbury is getting $150M and 7 years of playing time no matter what, while the Yankees are hoping he's getting at least 3-4 WAR a year average over the life of the contract. Hell, this last season he was playing apparently with some minor injuries and still put up a 5.8 WAR, which in today's dollars is a value anywhere from $29-41M/year.

If he stays healthy, that kind of production seems totally plausible... but that's a big, big "if" with his history. I think Ellsbury, when healthy, is absolutely a top-tier player, and Boston will miss his bat, speed, and defense quite a bit (thank god they won this season)... but unless that contract has a lot of clauses/insurance for missed time, there's not a small chance the Yankees will take a bath on this.

Me, I really wish the Sox would have kept him because he was a very solid homegrown player, and I fully expected he'd put another few 5+ WAR seasons out, but like beaverboard noted at that length and pay, I'd have been nervous about inking that deal. Then again, between 2012's massively effective firesale and the recent bridge deal with AJP, I figured they were specifically freeing up money for people like Ellsbury, so this comes as a surprise.

posted by hincandenza at 02:36 PM on December 04, 2013

On the other hand... Ellsbury is a left-handed pull hitter; one of the knocks on him as a Sox player was a tendency to swing for the fences instead of happily ripping a single/double and using his speed the rest of the way.

At his best he's doing that, but with that frighteningly short right-field in Yankee Stadium? He'll either flail himself into mediocrity, or be a 40/40 player.

posted by hincandenza at 02:40 PM on December 04, 2013

I notice at the start of the Man U/ Everton game, Gerard Deulofeu is on the bench. How common is it that, at least according to rumors, Everton's loan deal with Barcelona requires Everton pay more every time Deulofeu does not play?

posted by yerfatma at 02:55 PM on December 04, 2013

He'll either flail himself into mediocrity, or be a 40/40 player.

Curtis Granderson showed the potential for that kind of thing, which is probably the upside that Cashman sees in this deal.

The thing I don't understand about this deal is how the Yankees are going to stay under the luxury tax (maybe that's out the window now.) Brett Gardner, one of their cheaper starting players, has been made totally redundant and will probably be traded. Granderson is out, and so is his 40+ HR potential. If they take on a slugger in LF, their outfield will be way more expensive than last year's - plus McCann and (presumably) Cano are more expensive than last year's starters.

The only way this works both skill-wise and financially is if they see Ellsbury as the 30/30 guy to replace Granderson's power, can plug and play a cheap but effective LF, trade Gardner for a young SP, and re-sign Cano at a reasonable rate. Otherwise they're going over the luxury tax or won't have enough $$ to flesh out a deep club.

posted by dfleming at 04:28 PM on December 04, 2013

The deal for Ellsbury is entirely reasonable, and most of us here in BoSox Land had seen something like this coming for a long time. Good on ya, Jacoby, you've got your pile of money. You deserve it, even if it is from that group in NYC. As far as Ellsbury being brittle or fragile, the 2 serious injuries he has suffered were the result of a couple of pretty hard hits, and such as these are not likely to recur. What is likely is a deterioration of athletic skills over the term of the contract, but what NY is probably betting on is to have the deterioration not becoming serious for at least four years. As hincandenza points out, Ellsbury will profit from the ridiculous RF dimensions in Yankee Stadium. While he does have some power, I don't really think he will become a 40-40 player, nor do I believe he will flail himself into mediocrity. I see a 25 HR per year, .295 BA player who has good defensive skills, although not a particularly great arm. His value will be his potential for taking extra bases. The risk is a leg injury that causes a permanent decline in his running ability. this will reduce his defense to that of an average center fielder, and could mean a move into one of the corners. A slower Ellsbury will no longer be the base stealing threat, and while .295 hitters with some power are valuable, they are not MVPs. One other injury might give some problems, and that would be something that permanently affects his swing. If the OBP drops to something below average, then the base running threat is reduced. All in all, I would love to have had Ellsbury in Boston for a few more years, but not at that sort of money and not for that long. We'll see how it all works out.

posted by Howard_T at 04:38 PM on December 04, 2013

You'd think Moyes would be happier to see Everton win at Old Trafford for the first time in two decades.

posted by yerfatma at 04:38 PM on December 04, 2013

$153m for a player of Ellsbury's calibre today is totally reasonable

I think it makes sense specifically for the Yankees. They have the money, and they need the stars to fill up Yankees Stadium. For most other teams, this contract wouldn't make as much sense.

This seems to be the Red Sox front office sticking to their guns, or plan. The only way I'm upset is if the listen to complaints and eventually give a ridiculous contract to someone else to make up for this loss. Some players are going to give a home town discount, some are not. Nothing wrong with either approach, but Ellsbury was definitely in the latter category.

As hincandenza points out, Ellsbury will profit from the ridiculous RF dimensions in Yankee Stadium.

Everyone keeps jumping on this point, and I can understand why, but the statistics don't back this assumption at all.

Of course, maybe he changes his swing to take advantage of the new ballpark dimensions. That might work, or could backfire.

What will be interesting for me is if the Yankees still sign Cano or let him walk. If they let him walk, this deal doesn't improve them as much. If they keep Cano, they're now a better team that still needs pitching.

posted by justgary at 06:25 PM on December 04, 2013

how the Yankees are going to stay under the luxury tax

Thinking that all of the "under the luxury tax" talk coming from the Yankees was just a bargaining ploy to somewhat reduce free agent market valuation so they could get players for less money than they would normally pay.

The Yankees build by buying the best free agents, always have, always will.

posted by cixelsyd at 07:35 PM on December 04, 2013

The mystery of the Yankees' remaining $$$

posted by justgary at 07:39 PM on December 04, 2013

That link only underscores two things for me:

a) As much as he is unlikeable, ARod may have a point about the Yankees; they seem to be very determined and convinced that ARod is not playing next year, which calls into question the real reason for the suspension/length.

b) The Yankees have no realistic salary cap; with their deep pockets and the absurd YES income, they can and likely choose to spend much more than $185M, and won't constrain themselves if it's necessary to blow past that number.

posted by hincandenza at 08:08 PM on December 04, 2013

You'd think Moyes would be happier to see Everton win at Old Trafford for the first time in two decades.

Ha! He's having a long first season. I still think he's a great successor to that other guy whatsisname.

posted by rcade at 03:42 PM on December 05, 2013

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