While pitching continued to improve for the Cubs this season, despite a second annual midseason fire sale, but the offense took a step backwards in 2013, with the likes of Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro struggling at times and Nate Schierholtz leading the team in batting average, at .251.
Boston Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury is mere weeks from hitting the open market, and is likely to draw attention from a large number of Major League organizations. His torrid postseason (.500 average with a pair of doubles, seven runs and four stolen bases) will only add fuel to the fire in terms of his value – which continues to grow with each passing week.
Ellsbury, 30, is represented by player-friendly agent Scott Boras, who is reportedly seeking a deal near 8 years and $100 million for his client. That right there is reason number one why the Cubs should lay off Ellsbury during the offseason.
Chicago finally unloaded aging veteran Alfonso Soriano this season in a mid-year deal with the New York Yankees, and even then had to eat an overwhelming majority of the money owed to him next season. However, there are several aspects that separate Ellsbury and Soriano.
Soriano has always had more power than Ellsbury. The Red Sox outfielder has hit 65 home runs in his first seven seasons. Soriano, on the other hand, hit 162. That’s counting the first two partial seasons that Sori was extremely limited big league action, hitting just three home runs total over the two years.
This gives Soriano added value as he ages and his other primary tool – his speed- continues to diminish. Ellsbury lacks that same pop and relies almost solely on his legs for the majority of his success at the big league level. Evidence of this is the fact that he’s averaging 55 stolen bases a year with just 15 long balls annually.
A long-term deal for an outfielder who relies on his speed as he is entering his thirties is problematic. At first, the deal looks great. But slowly, as time takes its toll, speed is diminished, leaving a solid hitter that is hardly worth the albatross of a contract he’s signed to.
The other primary factor, which is probably the most important factor if you’re pondering the Cubs making a run at the Red Sox outfielder, is his health. Let’s just put it out there. He missed 28 games this year, 88 games last year, and 144 games in 2010. Despite the talent and multiple tools he brings to the field when he is healthy, he just isn’t healthy enough on a consistent basis to justify a long-term deal, which is what he will seek.
The Cubs are better off to continue to build and target mid-level free agents as they have done in years’ past. That’s not to say they can’t add an impact bat, because it’s clearly needed. However, simply put, Jacoby Ellsbury is not that bat.