Former Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury has plenty of reason to smile after agreeing to a hefty free agent contract with the Yankees.
The Yankees-Red Sox rivalry has another new twist.
According to a source, the Bombers agreed to a seven-year, $ 153 million deal with Jacoby Ellsbury, moving the All-Star center fielder from Boston to the Bronx the same way Johnny Damon did eight years ago.
Ellsbury, 30, must pass a physical for the deal to become official. A source said he was headed from Phoenix to New York late Tuesday night.
The Yankees had been courting several free-agent outfielders all winter, hoping to upgrade their right-field platoon of Ichiro Suzuki and Vernon Wells. Carlos Beltran had been the Yankees’ top target, but they were reluctant to give the 36-year-old a three-year pact.
As of Tuesday evening, the Yankees were in serious negotiations with agent Scott Boras about both Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo as of Tuesday night, according to a source, but the team preferred Ellsbury.
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Ellsbury also has a reputation as super defensive outfielder and finishes second in the AL MVP voting in 2011.
Ellsbury is likely to play center field for the Yankees, who would shift Brett Gardner to left field and move Alfonso Soriano to right.
Ellsbury hit .298/.355/.426 last season with a league-high 52 stolen bases in 134 games. He hit nine home runs and had 53 RBI, though he’s only two seasons removed from a 32-homer, 105-RBI campaign.
Much of Tuesday’s hot stove rumor mill had centered around Robinson Cano and the Mariners, who are believed to be preparing a mega-offer of eight years and $ 200 million for the second baseman.
“If that’s the offer and he wants to go there, he’s going to be a Mariner,” said an industry official familiar with the Yankees’ thinking, adding that a $ 200 million offer from the Yankees is “never going to happen.”
That would be one more year and $ 30-35 million more than the Yankees have offered. Would it be enough to lure the 31-year-old to the Pacific Northwest?
Ellsbury hits .298 with nine homers, 53 RBI and 52 stolen bases in 2013. The 30-year-old center fielder struggles with injuries in 2010 and 2012.
If it’s strictly about the money as Brian Cashman predicted last month, it very well could be.
Despite the Ellsbury signing and the $ 85 million deal they gave Brian McCann – he’ll be formally introduced Thursday at a Yankee Stadium press conference – the Yankees insist they can still re-sign Cano and stay beneath the $ 189 million luxury tax threshold.
That, of course, depends on how much Cano signs for, though the Yankees appear set to hold firm to their vow not to pay him $ 200 million.
Cano is seeking a nine-year deal worth $ 260 million with a $ 28 million vesting option for a 10th year that could bring the total value of the contract to $ 288 million. The Yankees have offered a seven-year deal worth $ 165-170 million, leaving the two sides with a sizable gap between them. One major-league official said Monday the Yankees and Cano were “oceans apart,” leaving no reason for another face-to-face meeting to be scheduled.
ESPN New York first reported Tuesday that the Mariners had “emerged as major players” for Cano, citing an industry source that said the Yankees’ chances of retaining the second baseman were “less than 50-50.”
That said, it’s hard to believe Cano had Seattle in mind when he fired Boras and hired Jay Z as his agent, hoping to create a brand for himself. New York would offer many more endorsement opportunities – not to mention a superior hitters’ ballpark – and the chance to be a lifelong Yankee.
Should Cano sign with Seattle, it would open up more money for the Yankees to spread around. Omar Infante would become a prime candidate to replace Cano, while the addition of Ellsbury and McCann would go a long way toward replacing the lost offense from Cano’s departure.