Yankees’ Jacoby Ellsbury signing to pay big dividends… for now

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The Yankees are betting big that Jacoby Ellsbury will age well in his thirties.

They’re betting big that he’s not injury-prone and that his two season-ruining injuries were flukes.

They’re betting big that his power will come back with Yankee Stadium’s short porch in right serving as such a tempting target.

They’re betting big that Alex Rodriguez’s suspension will be upheld and his 2014 salary will be off the books.

I’m not sure about No. 4, but the first three, at least, look like pretty good bets to me. It’s true that Ellsbury went to just one All-Star Game in his twenties, but he nearly won the MVP that year and he was plenty good in three other seasons besides. He has a .350 career OBP, and he’s the game’s best basestealer. He should age well; the speed guys usually do. Maybe not seven years, $153 million well, but he’ll be worth the $22 million for the next few years anyway.

The back half of the contract is a concern, as it usually is. Ellsbury has never been a particularly instinctual outfielder, but in his twenties, he was always able to outrun his mistakes and he graded out as an above average center fielder as a result. Eventually, that’s going to change. Yankee fans should already know how that goes, having witnessed the declines of Bernie Williams and Johnny Damon in center field. Ellsbury will finish the contract as a left fielder and, much like Damon, he may turn out to be a liability even there as his speed goes.

But that’s not a concern for 2014. For now, he’s a second borderline All-Star added to the Yankees order, joining Brian McCann. He’ll bat leadoff, with Brett Gardner likely dropping to the ninth spot. A Gardner-Ellsbury-Ichiro outfield should be one of the game’s best defensively.

The Yankees are far from done, too. It’s still likely that they’ll re-sign Robinson Cano, though probably not for less than $200 million. They’ll add pitching. They may end up paying the luxury tax again even if A-Rod’s $27.5 million disappears. It may not be enough to overtake the Red Sox, but they won’t go down so quietly again.

Report: The White Sox and Diamondbacks are in on Manny Machado

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Buster Olney of ESPN reports that the White Sox and Diamondbacks have emerged as two of the strongest contenders for Orioles third baseman Manny Machado. It seems like a foregone conclusion that Baltimore will deal their superstar infielder this winter, but nothing appears imminent just yet. While both the White Sox and D-backs have reportedly made serious offers, Orioles owner Peter Angelos is wary of any non-contending team that might be incentivized to flip Machado to the rival Yankees next season.

The White Sox, for their part, have assured the Orioles that they view Machado more as a solid one-year rental than the new face of their franchise, with no immediate plans to deal him elsewhere. Given their current rebuilding status and the unlikelihood that they would contend in 2018, it makes their offer a bit of a head-scratcher — and, as USA Today Sports’ Bob Nightengale points out, they’ve been reluctant to put any top-5 prospects on the table in preliminary negotiations.

The Diamondbacks, on the other hand, are far better positioned to enter the postseason in 2018, though that doesn’t automatically make them the perfect landing spot for Machado. They already have Jake Lamb stationed at third base, and while it’s not inconceivable that they could jettison the Ketel Marte/Chris Owings/Nick Ahmed shortstop platoon for someone of Machado’s talent, his $17 million salary appears to be more than the D-backs are currently capable of absorbing.

The White Sox and D-backs may have exhibited the most interest in Machado so far, but they’re hardly the only contenders here. MASN Sports’ Roch Kubatko maintains that the Cardinals and Yankees remain in discussions for the 25-year-old, with Cardinals’ RHP Jordan Hicks and catcher Carson Kelly drawing interest, as well as Yankees’ top prospect Gleyber Torres. Any deal involving the Yankees still feels like a long shot, however; as Craig mentioned on Wednesday, it makes sense that the club wouldn’t want to see their star player hanging around their division rivals in 2018, and the Yankees should be well prepared to make a run at him in free agency next winter.