The one questionable arbitration-eligible case ends almost at the earliest possible time
Neither the Red Sox nor agent Scott Boras decided to play hardball with Jacoby Ellsbury and his arbitration-eligible negotiations this off-season, instead coming to terms on a deal just days after the outfielder filed. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that Ellsbury and the Sox agreed to a one-year, $9 million contract, giving him a raise on last year, but not quite at the level that his previous season's salary projected him to in his final year of arbitration.
Ellsbury made $8.1 million in 2012, suggesting that he would have pulled in at least $11 million, if not much more, in 2013 should he continue on his previous trajectory. Instead, Ellsbury suffered a dislocated shoulder in early April, and missed the rest of the first half before turning in a disappointing second. As we assumed would happen, Boston gave him a slight raise rather than hold steady at the same salary, while Boras and Ellsbury conceded that a slight raise beat heading to arbitration to argue on shaky ground for more.
If Ellsbury hits to his career levels this upcoming season -- .297/.349/.442 -- then Boston will have received more than their money's worth, and Ellsbury will be in a great position to cash in on his first trip to the free agent market. If, however, he has another injury-riddled season, or is once again plagued by the after-effects of the shoulder injury, then things are going to become very strange, and potentially Sizemorian, in a hurry. The last time he came back from a major injury, though, he nearly won an MVP award, so let's not write him off just yet.
If the Red Sox are not in contention, and teams make respectable offers for Ellsbury come July, the fact he's making just $9 million in 2013 will play into Boston's favor. Since roughly one-third of his season salary will be all that remains at that point, the possible market for him is essentially any team with the need. Rather than dwell on that, though, let's instead focus on what a healthy Ellsbury could do for Boston in August and September, shall we?