As time drags on, Red Sox fans hoping for a Jacoby Ellsbury trade may be beginning to despair over the possibility of ever finding a match on the market.
Just one year ago, Ellsbury was on top of the world, holding one of the highest trade values of any player in the league after putting up an MVP-like season at the plate, in the field, and on the basepaths. The Red Sox, however, ultimately elected to hold onto their star, and after one injury-filled disaster in 2012, it's looking like a missed opportunity.
We've known for about a week now that the Red Sox are looking to trade Ellsbury. They haven't been quite that open about it, but we heard they were open to the idea as soon as they signed Shane Victorino, and their continued interest in the likes of Nick Swisher and Josh Hamilton seems to paint a pretty decent picture of what Plan A is for Ben Cherington et al. Unfortunately, the lack of progress on any such move is discouraging, especially considering the inflated market for center fielders we're currently seeing.
That brings me to the case of one Shin-Soo Choo, recently traded to the Cincinnati Reds, and how he has done very little to shed any light on the proceedings.
The Red Sox may have hoped that any Choo deal would provide something of a barometer for Ellsbury. While Choo's 2012 was solid, leaving him without as much risk factor as Ellsbury, they are each outfielders with one year remaining on their contracts, and what Ellsbury may lack in certainty he more than makes up for in upside given how good he was at the plate in 2011 and how vastly superior he is to Choo defensively. If a straight line could not be drawn equating Choo's compensation to Ellsbury's, it would at the very least provide a ballpark.
With that in mind, it did not look good when we heard that the Indians were getting Drew Stubbs and Didi Gregorious in return. Stubbs is a center fielder with a good glove and wheels, but little in the way of the bat, and Gregorious is kind of like Jose Iglesias with a less amazing glove and the asterisk that, should he ever learn to hit, he'll bring some power to the table. Even if it was one year of Choo for a total of nine years of these guys, they weren't exactly the sort of players you trade for, but pick up cheap in free agency.
Of course, now we know there's more to this deal. We know that, in reality, the Indians will actually be getting Trevor Bauer from the Arizona Diamondbacks, who will be taking on those two players and a couple others (Lars Anderson!) instead, with Choo still going to the Reds. That, on the surface, sounds like pretty great news. Bauer was, after all, the third pick in last year's draft, ranked the #9 prospect in all of baseball by Baseball America before 2012, and then split a 2.42 ERA in 130 innings between Double-A and Triple-A with 157 strikeouts and 61 walks.
Suddenly Ellsbury's value is looking pretty good. Or he would be if that trade made any sense at all based on actual talent and performance. Instead, it makes none at all, meaning that we have to turn to Bauer and ask why on Earth Kevin Towers would ship him away for pennies on the dollar. The only explanation there is the one that plenty of Diamondbacks fans were quick to give when the deal was announced: attitude. While the Diamondbacks are talking up Gregorious like he's the second coming of Cal Ripken Jr., there's been lots of talk that Bauer hasn't been making any friends in the organization, and it seems that this may have been more about getting rid of a troublesome pitcher than getting back Gregorious.
Unfortunately, it's pretty hard to reconcile this deal with any sort of logical train of thought otherwise, leaving us with two options: either this is a deal we can't really base an Ellsbury trade on because it made so little sense for the team giving up what the Indians got, or it's a deal we can't really base an Ellsbury trade on because it had so much to do with one player being out of favor.
Unless the Red Sox can find another team with a young, talented, MLB-ready pitcher with an attitude problem, well, there's really not much here for them to work with.