Red Sox want to keep Jacoby Ellsbury, but worry about his price

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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.

Phillies owner John Middleton is in Las Vegas with Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper
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Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas for a meeting with Bryce Harper on Friday. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it’s “more of a meet-and-greet than a sign-a-deal” affair, but as the club is still at the forefront of trade rumors involving the All-Star slugger, there remains a possibility (however slight) that something could be completed in the days to come.

Even now, the Phillies aren’t alone in the race to sign Harper, but recent rumors have helped whittle down the competition from five or more teams (Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Giants, and Padres) to three strong contenders. The Giants are said to be interested in a lucrative short-term deal with the outfielder, while the Padres remain in the conversation despite inking Manny Machado to a mammoth 10-year, $300 million contract this week. It’s not yet clear just how far either team would go to outbid Philadelphia as talks with Harper intensify.

As for the Nationals and White Sox, the former officially bowed out earlier today, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that the latter won’t make a strong play for Harper as they feel the asking price and competing offers are “getting too high” for the 26-year-old’s services. If a mystery team is still in the mix, there’s been no word on their standing with Harper in the last month or so.