Red Sox’s hopes for Jacoby Ellsbury extension getting more expensive with every homer

18 Comments

During a radio interview this morning general manager Theo Epstein noted that the Red Sox unsuccessfully tried to work out a long-term contract extension with Jacoby Ellsbury in the past and would still like to do so, but the center fielder’s price tag is rising rapidly.

Here’s what Epstein said on the Dennis and Callahan Show:

This isn’t the right forum to talk about it. Those conversations are always behind closed doors. But I guess it’s not a secret we sat down and tried in the past to do that, lock Jacoby up, and I hope we’ll sit down in the future again and try to do it once more at the appropriate time. He’s somebody we’ve long believed in, we’ve long seen as a core young member of the organization that we would love to keep around.

Ellsbury is earning $2.4 million in his first season of arbitration eligibility and will be under team control in 2012 and 2013, so there’s no rush to get something done. On the other hand, he’s bounced back from an injury wrecked 2010 to hit .316 with 15 homers in 95 games after totaling 20 homers in his first 349 games, which along with having Scott Boras as an agent guarantees Ellsbury will be looking to break the bank.

Plus, as Rob Bradford of WEEI.com points out Boras has typically tried to avoid letting his clients give up free agent years as part of contract extensions, so even if the Red Sox are willing to meet his rising asking price that may not even be an option. Quite a bit different than just a year ago, when Ellsbury hit .192 and was limited to 18 games by injuries.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

Getty Images
5 Comments

Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.