Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury is having a great season, currently hitting .299 with a league-leading 52 stolen bases while playing outstanding defense. He’s a big reason why the Red Sox are 6.5 games in front of the Rays in first place in the AL East, and he will be a big part of their post-season hopes.
What happens after that, though, is unknown. Ellsbury, who turns 30 on the 11th, will be eligible for free agency and is expected to draw a lot of interest. The Red Sox want to keep him around, but as Jon Heyman of CBS Sports writes, they worry about his price tag extending into the nine figure range:
The Red Sox tried to re-sign Ellsbury sometime before this season, and all indications are they will try again. The issue is whether they have interest in getting into a bidding war that could go easily past the $100 million mark, well past it if you listen to Ellsbury’s agent Scott Boras’ words Thursday.
Boston had huge success dealing last winter in what’s been dubbed the “mid-range” market, scoring big with its deals for Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli and others, and that strategy may be weighing on them. It’s no surprise there are people within the Red Sox hierarchy who aren’t anxious to return to the $100 million-plus type deals that haven’t always paid off for them.
Ellsbury will likely be the most sought-after player in free agency, but he does bring with him some concerns. He’ll be 30 years old when his contract begins, meaning he’ll be in his mid-30’s when it ends. He has suffered two serious injuries in his career, which seems more emblematic of his play style than anything. And a large portion of his value is derived from his legs — his ability to play defense and steal bases — which was a common concern among teams that pursued Bourn but eventually backed down. Bourn eventually signed with the Indians in February on a four-year, $48 million contract.
CC Sabathia‘s contract with the Yankees expires after the 2017 season but the lefty feels that he has enough left in the tank to pitch in 2018 and beyond, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News reports.
Sabathia said, “I just know myself. I know I feel like it’s not my time yet. Barring any crazy injuries I know I can pitch past next year. I feel like this is just the beginning of what I’m trying to do. I feel like there’s a lot more still to learn and a lot better to get. It’s exciting.”
The 36-year-old lefty currently holds a 4.02 ERA and a 144/63 K/BB ratio in 172 1/3 innings. It’s his best and healthiest season since 2012. He battled a knee injury last season and checked into rehab for alcohol addiction last October. Sabathia said that being treated for his addiction put him “in a good spot.”
Sabathia is owed $25 million through a vesting option for the 2017 season.
The Red Sox can thank the Orioles for not having to fight to clinch the division on Thursday or later. The Orioles came from behind to defeat the Blue Jays 3-2 on Wednesday evening, clinching the AL East for the Red Sox.
A few minutes after that game went final, the Red Sox squandered a 3-0 lead taken in the eighth inning, culminating in a walk-off grand slam by Mark Teixeira in the bottom of the ninth inning. Closer Craig Kimbrel started the ninth, but didn’t have control over any of his pitches. He allowed a leadoff single followed by three consecutive walks to force in a run. Joe Kelly relieved Kimbrel and seemed to be close to wriggling out of the jam, getting Starlin Castro to strike out looking and Didi Gregorius to pop up. But after starting Teixeira with a first-pitch curve ball for a strike, Teixera clobbered a 99 MPH fastball, sending it over the fence in right-center to end the game.
For the Yankees, the come-from-behind victory was crucial as it staved off Wild Card elimination for one more day.
This is the first time the Red Sox have clinched the AL East since 2013, also the last year they won the World Series.