Jerry Crasnick’s tweet during the NFL’s Championship Games sent baseball fans into a frenzy.
MLB-hungry fanatics plus a diluted football product equaled excitement, anxiety and, of course, rumors.
The latest: the Milwaukee Brewers are looking to rework their roster, including buying and selling outfielders. Barstool’s Eric Hubbs accompanied Crasnick’s tweet by linking Jacoby Ellsbury – the isolated center fielder for the New York Yankees – to the Brewers.
It was music to Yankees’ fans ears. It’s a song they’ve been trying to create since the start of the offseason.
But this rumor just doesn’t pass the smell test.
While far-fetched, the Brewers acquiring an outfielder despite trying to trade one of their own does make sense. GM David Stearns and the rest of Milwaukee’s front office have been using both Keon Broxton and Domingo Santana as trade bait, with the hopes that a package involving one of the two players could get a starting pitcher or second baseman in return.
Broxton has garnered interest in a number of teams – specifically the San Francisco Giants, until they acquired Austin Jackson earlier Monday – due to his speed and tremendous defense out in center field. And while strikeouts have been an issue throughout his career, potential remains at the plate.
Then there is Santana. The 25-year-old had a breakout campaign in 2017, where he sported career highs in nearly every major offensive category, including average (.278), OPS (.875), home runs (30), RBI (85) and stolen bases (15), amongst others. It’s easy to see Santana as the focal point of a trade package for a strong, cost-controlled pitcher.
Even if the Brewers parted with both Broxton and Santana to upgrade holes on their roster, why would they take on Jacoby Ellsbury to fill in?
Now, would Ellsbury cost less than, say, Lorenzo Cain? Yes, especially when it’s common knowledge that the Yankees will have to eat a majority of the $64 million remaining over the next three years of his contract.
But it’s hard to believe Ellsbury will be much of an upgrade.
While he can still play better-than-average center field, there are two issues that arise when discussing Ellsbury. When it comes to plate appearances, the 34-year-old has been far from stellar since trading in his red socks for pinstripes. Over the course of four seasons in New York, Ellsbury has slashed just .264/.330/.386, including a pedestrian .750 OPS in 2017. The bigger issue, however, is his injury history. Ellsbury has becoming synonymous with the disabled list over the course of his career, with last year being no different. Ellsbury hasn’t played a full season since 2014. At 34, durability concerns only loom larger.
Of course, there is a caveat. The Yankees aren’t looking for much of anything in return. The move can simply be a salary dump, with the addition of a quality prospect – Stubbs specifically mentioned hard-throwing right-hander Albert Abreu – to help sweeten the pot.
The deal may even be expanded into a larger one. With recent rumors connecting power-hitting third baseman Travis Shaw to the Yankees, GM Brian Cashman could add third baseman Miguel Andujar (one of the organization’s top prospects) or second baseman Nick Solak (recently ranked as Baseball America’s fifth-best prospect at his position) to entice the Brewers to pull the trigger.
But then there is that last hump to get over. One that makes this trade far from reality.
Ellsbury’s no-trade clause.
It’s been well-documented that Ellsbury is slated to begin the 2018 season as the Yankees’ fourth outfielder. It has been reported that he’s yet to be willing to waive the clause despite the potential lack of playing time in the Bronx. Sure, Ellsbury may get a chance to start the season in center field in Miller Park, but top prospect Lewis Brinson is ready to take the baseball world by storm. While there’s a slight chance he begins the season in AAA, it won’t be long before he’s in the middle of the outfield.
There are positives for both sides of the deal. The Yankees can free themselves of arguably the worst free agent signing in franchise history, allowing them to spend money elsewhere. The Brewers can strengthen their team, while dealing from one of their own strengths, with the hopes they can take the next step in 2018.
But there’s something fishy about this rumor. That would at least explain the smell.
Dan Federico is a co-founder of Bronx to Bushville.