DeJesus Rumors Elicit End Of Ellsbury Era In Boston?

ATLANTA - JUNE 20: David DeJesus #9 of the Kansas City Royals makes a catch as he slides into foul territory in left field against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on June 20, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Jacoby Ellsbury has found himself immersed in Red Sox-related headlines more than you’d expect regarding your typical disabled list constituent. Ellsbury’s current situation has evoked a wide range of opinions and emotions -- from scrutiny to sympathy -- in relation to multiple topics. From Jacoby’s injured ribs and the amount of time he has required for rehab to, perhaps subsequently, trade rumors educing the end of the ‘Ellsbury Era’ in Boston.

Deliberation regarding Ellsbury has not been confined to the media -- partially because they wouldn’t allow it. In fact, it was his very own teammate Kevin Youkilis’ sentiments that may have summed the situation up best.

"I don’t know what’s going on with Jacoby. I don’t think any of us really know." Youkilis was then asked whether he questioned the length of time Ellsbury required away from the team and on the disabled list, replying, "Don’t go down that road. One thing I can say is there’s a lot of guys here that are hurt and supporting the team. We wish Jacoby was here supporting us, too."

Adhering to the adage suggesting that when it rains, it pours, the Red Sox are now reportedly in semi-substantive discussions with the Kansas City Royals concerning the availability of outfielder David DeJesus.

Could the potential addition of DeJesus, along with the rest of the aforementioned, serve as a foreshadower for Ellsbury’s exit from Boston?

Initially, news appertaining to Ellsbury seemed to focalize on his injured ribs -- what the correct diagnosis and prognosis were in particular. Those ribs, labeled as bruised directly following a collision with third baseman Adrian Beltre, have since been formally escalated to the fractured variety.

Explaining how and when that happened, however, is heavily dependent on who you’re asking.

While Ellsbury maintains that he secured the fractures at the time of his encounter with Beltre’s knee [April 11th], the medical staff of the Boston Red Sox -- namely its director, Dr. Thomas Gill -- attest that the actual fracturing of the ribs resulted from a diving catch that Ellsbury made just three days removed from his initial disabled list stint against Philadelphia [May 23rd].

Upon his return to the team in Toronto last week, Jacoby met an onslaught of questioning from the reporters that encompassed his dressing area fully prepared and in defense mode; enter said rift.

Reading from pages of presumably self-scribed notes, Ellsbury claimed to have experienced pain on both the front and back of his rib cage as a direct result of the April collision and that he asked for -- but was denied -- MRI exams by club personnel. Jacoby’s adamant -- and all-too-verbal -- accusations of misdiagnosis directly contradicted claims made by Dr. Gill (that the fractures were sustained after diving for a ball in late-May, over a month after the original injury).

Regardless of who is ultimately correct in the matter of when the actual fracturing occurred, Ellsbury’s toughness and resiliency have already been brought into question as a result of his prolonged absence -- and not just by Kevin Youkilis.

Instead of being praised for even attempting a comeback in May, Ellsbury has since been ridiculed for his inability to ‘tough it out’ per se -- something that he vehemently dispels.

"I didn't do this to myself. I didn't tweak something and sit out. I got hurt going all-out, 100 percent for a ball. I tried to come back when I knew I wasn't 100 percent. That's all I can say. Everybody knows how I play. Everyone knows I want to be out there. You can't control everybody and what they think. My teammates know. The fans have been great. That's all that matters."

Despite the majority of the initial backlash receding into generally empathetic inclinations -- specifically from the fans’ perspective -- that hasn’t successfully ceased the circulation of Ellsbury’s name within the context of media speculation.

According to Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports, the Red Sox first made contact with the Royals regarding outfielder David DeJesus sometime around July 4th. While nothing notably significant appeared to have stemmed from that particular meeting, the two clubs left with a mutual opinion that there was enough interest from both parties to warrant continued communication.

A continuation of those discussions is exactly what happened during Major League Baseball’s All-Star weekend festivities.

MLB sources claim that Kansas City is -- and has been -- actively scouting the ranks of Boston’s minor-league system; although at this point no names have been exchanged.

The Red Sox have used bubblegum and band aids to hold the outfield together all season long. To put it in perspective: J.D. Drew -- not typically known for his durability -- leads all Boston outfielders in games played with 78. Behind him? Darnell McDonald [68], Bill Hall [60], Eric Patterson [54] and Jeremy Hermida [45]. Not exactly what anyone had in mind entering the season.

Right now, Ellsbury’s return date remains tentative; he’ll likely be gone until at least mid-August. Mike Cameron -- despite participating at the moment -- missed the majority of May with an abdominal strain and has yet to truly reestablish form. The thought of McDonald, Hall and Patterson patching up an outfield anchored by a 34 year-old J.D. Drew does little to reaffirm fans’ optimism in the midst of a tight A.L. playoff race.

David DeJesus may aid in alleviating such concerns, but would it increase the likelihood that Ellsbury be shopped?

The 30 year-old former fourth round draft pick has played in 85 of the Royals’ 88 game this season and has seen time at all three outfield positions. DeJesus’ .326 batting average and .395 on-base percentage rank 7th in the American League and his 107 hits is tied with the Red Sox‘s leading hitter, Adrian Beltre, for sixth in the A.L. If he continues at his current pace at the plate in 2010, David will set career-highs in nearly every major offensive statistic including BA, OBP, SLG [.460], OPS [.855] and OPS+ [133] -- all while playing in a lineup that offers less-than comparable protection when side-by-side with Boston’s.

Even if Ellsbury and Cameron are both healthy and back in the lineup by the end of August as most reports suggest -- and Drew can continue to stave off the injury bug -- would production like DeJesus’ not represent an upgrade at least somewhere out there? Perhaps shifting Ellsbury back to centerfield and placing DeJesus in left for the remainder of 2010 would be the most ideal scenario. You wouldn’t lose too much at either position defensively and DeJesus’ ability to get one base and put the ball in play would certainly be a welcomed change from Cameron’s heavy strikeout totals.

The question isn’t whether or not DeJesus would be a nice addition to the Red Sox; obviously he would. Instead, the real question is whether Boston has the type of package that could pry DeJesus from Kansas City (it’s been said that the Royals are looking to be considered clear-cut winners in any trade involving David), and in turn, how willing the Red Sox are to meet the Royals’ requirements.

Unlike most teams that find themselves out of the playoff race and looking to make some deals at the midway point of the season, the Royals aren’t necessarily in dire need of procuring younger talents in an effort to rebuild.

Backing an already respectable core of young starting pitchers at the major league level, Kansas City’s minor league system features six pitchers in the organization’s ten top-rated prospects [according to Baseball America’s annual rankings]. At the corner infield spots, Billy Butler, Alberto Callaspo and Alex Gordon -- all 27 years of age or younger -- will soon be joined by highly-touted prospects Mike Moustakas (3B, 21 y.o.), and Eric Hosmer (1B, 20 y.o.).

However, where the Royals could potentially stand to get more youthful is at catcher and, ironically enough, in the outfield.

While Wil Myers, a catcher drafted by K.C. in 2009 having not yet turned the age of twenty, offers some futuristic hope of replacing current starting catcher -- 36 year-old Jason Kendall -- catching prospects remain one of the toughest of all positions to develop; you can never have too many, and unfortunately for the Royals, Myers may be all that they have.

As far as outfielders go, the Royals’ current roster boasts exactly zero under the age of 28 -- the obvious exception being DeJesus -- and if there’s one thing that Boston holds in surplus, it’s tradable outfield prospects.

Could a package centered around a couple players such as Josh Reddick and Ryan Lavarnway -- possibly including someone like Che-Hsuan Lin -- be enough to snag DeJesus?

Reddick has already shown flashes of his true potential at the major league level, and the 23 year-old represents a ready-to-contribute, but still young enough to suggest further development, outfield option.

Lavarnway, a 22 year-old catcher, has been climbing the ranks of Boston’s minor leagues. He, similarly to Reddick, is a still-young -- but potentially ready to contribute on the major league level -- prospect-type player at a position of need for K.C. In 2009, Lavarnway was named SoxProspects.com’s Offensive Player of the Year as well as MLB.com’s Red Sox Organization Player of the Year; not to mention the fact that he’s riding into the trade deadline on the back of Player of the Month Awards for both April and June.

Lin is an interesting addition because of his abnormally high upside. He’s the type of 21 year-old prospect that no team would hesitate taking a risk on. The Red Sox, however, can afford to move someone like Lin because by the time he is fully-developed, other similarly-aged and more polished outfield prospects -- Ryan Kalish and Reymond Fuentes in particular -- will likely already have begun contributing at the big league level.

Would the Red Sox be willing to offer this type of package for a player of DeJesus’ caliber, and in turn, would the Royals accept such an offer? Neither may ultimately be considered probable, however with Cameron, Drew and DeJesus under club control in 2011, grabbing DeJesus (who comes with a relatively cheap $6 million option) could actually make the latter of the two the more feasible.

For one, the Red Sox could then afford to pass on Cameron‘s option, replacing him with DeJesus for very little difference in salary -- DeJesus would likely shift to LF in this scenario. Boston could then turn around to use some of the money saved by any of the other plethora of potential departures following this season [David Ortiz, Victor Martinez, Jonathan Papelbon] to sign a free agent such as Jayson Werth -- or less-likely -- someone like Carl Crawford.

This is where trading Ellsbury becomes arguably most sensible -- this off season.

Assuming the Red Sox would make a move on someone like Werth after acquiring DeJesus and exercising Drew’s option to fill out the outfield this winter, they would still likely be left with a glaring need at one of the ‘glamour’ positions such as catcher or third base. A player like Ellsbury is the type of trade bait that can land the ideal impact player that the Red Sox would desire when attempting to replace the likes of either Victor Martinez or Adrian Beltre.

The again, given enough time, anyone might be able to conjure up a sequence of events justifying almost any random trade rumor.

The fact of the matter is, when it’s all said and done it’s difficult to imagine the Red Sox actively pursuing the subtraction of Jacoby Ellsbury from their lineup -- even in the event that they land DeJesus. Ellsbury represents a still-developing, not yet in the prime of his career, monetarily affordable game-changer at the leadoff position. His impossible-to-ignore element of speed discreetly packaged in a lineup underwhelmed with base running threats is invaluable -- especially for those hitting directly behind him.

Make no mistake about it, the acquisition of David DeJesus is still a very distinct possibility and something that the Red Sox are surely exploring. However, like most trade rumors lacking any semblance of tangible evidence -- especially in Boston -- this one probably won’t evolve into anything.

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