Jacoby Ellsbury

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


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.

Tigers in discussions with Jordan Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.

Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.

Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.

Blue Jays still focused on upgrading their pitching

Marco Estrada
AP Photo/LM Otero

Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.

The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.

Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.

Report: Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”

Jonathan Papelbon
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.

Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.

The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.

Minor league home run king Mike Hessman retires

NEW YORK - JULY 29:  Mike Hessman #19 of the New York Mets bats against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 4-0.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.

Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.

Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.