Going into 2018, the Yankees will have some difficult decisions to make regarding their outfield.
With Aaron Judge locking up right field, the organization will essentially have four players competing for the other two starting spots, plus the fourth outfielder role: Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Clint Frazier and Jacoby Ellsbury.
Many people project Gardner to finish out his contract with the team even though he’s been the subject of trade speculation over the last few winters. Hicks has been a favorite of GM Brian Cashman, and although he stumbled in the second half after a hot start, the 28-year-old brings great defense and athleticism to the lineup.
The Yankees are going all-in on the youth movement, and after a brief cameo in the major leagues in ’17 which saw flashes of success and promise, Frazier could be ready to leave the minor leagues behind him.
That brings us to Ellsbury, the $153 million man. According to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, expect the Yankees to shop Ellsbury and his expensive price tag this winter.
Look for the Yankees to shop Jacoby Ellsbury after a disappointing season in which he sat in the ALCS while Aaron Hicks, who slumped badly, played. The Yankees would have to offset much of the contract. But they are trying to get below the $195 million mark, have a surplus of outfielders and believe Ellsbury might do better with a change of scenery. He actually had a nice second half after returning following a concussion suffered while crashing into the center-field wall, but he still finished with a .264/.348/.402 slash line, which was still below average for an outfielder, and below his career norm. (In fact, in none of his four years in New York has he reached his .760 career OPS.) Ellsbury has three years to go on his $153 million, seven-year deal, so there would have to be a significant paydown to facilitate a deal. Some have always envisioned Ellsbury going home to play in Seattle, which could use an outfielder but is not believed to have a lot of money in its budget.
Heyman also pointed out that Ellsbury’s agent, Scott Boras, expressed disappointment in his client’s benching during the playoffs:
Boras pointed to Ellsbury’s strong play after returning from the head injury [earlier in the season], and his success as a postseason player for Boston. “He helped them win two rings,” Boras pointed out.
Yankee fans would do backflips if Ellsbury was traded, but it seems like a tall task at the moment. We’ve seen Cashman work his magic recently with trades, though, and he’d have to convince ownership to eat up the majority of the $68.4 million left on Ellsbury’s contract.
Regardless, the way the roster is set up right now, there’s going to be an odd-man out by the time the 2018 season starts.