Just a few short months from now the Red Sox' center fielder of six-plus years, Jacoby Ellsbury, will be a free agent. And at least at the moment, there's not much expectation he'll be returning to a Red Sox team that has rededicated itself to a more flexible, sustainable payroll model.
Those who doubt Ellsbury's return, however, know their predictions are dependent on a market forming for the speedy center fielder. Thanks to David Kaplan of CSN Chicago, we may have our first real buyers: the Chicago Cubs. According to Kaplan, with Alfonso Soriano coming off their books, a week 2015 class in the future, the Cubs may choose this coming offseason to both lock up their young talent and move on impact free agents, even with a dismal 15-22 record so far in 2013.
It's amusing to think that the Cubs could be Ellsbury's future home. After all, many fans have speculated one of Ellsbury's primary motivations for leaving is a level of enmity that formed between him and the team over his injury back in 2010. That, of course, was back when Theo Epstein, current President of Baseball Operations for the Cubs, was the general manager of the Red Sox. If Ellsbury does indeed end up in Chicago, it would be a good sign that his departure was largely dictated by financial concerns.
It will be interesting to see just how much Ellsbury draws on the open market, though. After putting up MVP-level numbers in 2011, Ellsbury's 2012 season was ruined by injury, and he's yet to really bounce back at the plate in 2013. His .257/.311/.385 line is far from impressive no matter how many bases he swipes. On the other hand, this past offseason has shown us that speedy center fielders with bats that were good in the past are actually hot commodities. If Ellsbury doesn't get the ridiculous figures some might have predicted after 2011, he's still going to get paid.
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