Chicago Cubs: Jacoby Ellsbury is not a solution for the outfield

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Jacoby Ellsbury recently became a free agent after the New York Yankees released him. It’s hard to see him being of much help for the Chicago Cubs.

The Chicago Cubs need outfield help this offseason, particularly in center field. There aren’t many free-agent options available, but the list did grow a little bit when the New York Yankees released Jacoby Ellsbury this week, despite still being on the hook for about $26 million. Could Ellsbury be an option for the Cubs?

The Yankees signed Ellsbury to a seven-year, $153 million contract before the 2014 season, and that signing has been a disaster. From 2014 to 2017, Ellsbury was okay for the Yankees but was nowhere near the superstar they were expecting, while injuries kept Ellsbury off the field for the entire 2018 and 2019 seasons.

The 36-year-old outfielder could probably be had on a minor league contract this offseason, or at most, he might be willing to sign a major league contract for the minimum salary. Some will also bring up his prior connection with Theo Epstein in Boston. It could be a low-risk move, but it’s still hard to see it being worth it.

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While Ellsbury had a couple of good seasons with the Boston Red Sox several years ago, even before his injuries that sidelined him for two years, he was already in decline while playing for the Yankees.

2011 was by far Ellsbury’s best year, as he batted .321 with 32 homers and 105 RBIs while stealing 39 bases, suitable for finishing second in MVP voting. In 2013, he finished 15th in MVP voting, but those are the only two times in which he placed.

With the Yankees, Ellsbury’s best season by far was 2014, in which he batted .271 with 16 home runs, 70 RBIs, and 39 stolen bases. He didn’t even come close to those totals over the next three years. In that great 2011 season, Ellsbury posted a .928 OPS, but that was his only full season in which he even reached .800. Perhaps he was overrated also before he signed with the Yankees.

All that aside, Ellsbury hasn’t proved that he can stay on the field, as injuries have been a problem throughout his career. Besides, speed has always been his most significant asset, and it’s hard to imagine a 36-year-old with a long injury history contributing much in that department.

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Would it hurt to bring Ellsbury in on a minor league deal and invite him to spring training? I suppose it would be a low-risk and potentially high-reward move. It just seems doubtful at this point that he has anything left in the tank. If the Chicago Cubs are looking for outfield help, they’d be better off looking elsewhere.