Cliff Lee did NOT have a bad season in 2012. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-US PRESSWIRE

Might the Phillies Target Jacoby Ellsbury? Some Boston Dude Thinks So


Hey! A photo of Jacoby Ellsbury healthy! How much is this worth? Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Cliff Lee for Jacoby Ellsbury. Yeah, I’m not holding my breath either.

A story by Ben Shapiro for Masslive.com (“powered by” The Republican,” a Springfield, MA newspaper) speculates the Red Sox may be “keeping an eye” on the Phillies next week at the Winter Meetings.

It’s not because he thinks Red Sox brass is concerned the Phillies are too young to use the oven by themselves, or that they might have a house party while the parents are away.

Shapiro speculates that, if the Phils find the asking price of the remaining free agent center fielders to be too high, perhaps they’d be interested in trading for Boston’s Jacoby Ellsbury.

Two years ago, Ellsbury was an 8 WAR player for the Sox. He finished second in the AL MVP voting to Justin Verlander, hitting .321/.376/.552 for an OPS of .928, an OPS+ of 146, with 32 HRs, and 46 doubles, also leading the league in total bases with 364.

Ellsbury is also just a few seasons removed from stealing a league-leading 70 bases, and also has a Gold Glove in his resume, for whatever that’s worth.

There’s are the pros.

Last year, however, Ellsbury played in only 74 games, missing the first half of the season with a separated shoulder. His OPS dropped to .682 and he hit just four home runs and 18 doubles in 323 plate appearances. In 2010, Ellsbury missed even more time, playing in just 18 games.

So yeah, durability has not been his strong suit the last few years.

But here’s where Shapiro’s article got a little hilarious.

Of course, there’s the little issue of who the Red Sox could get in return for Ellsbury.

While Philadelphia’s rotation is stocked with big names, the Phillies also have some younger pitcher, including Kyle Kendrick and Vance Worley. Philadelphia probably would not part with those two inexpensive and young pitchers.

Maybe I’m nuts, but the idea that the Phillies would rule out trading Vance Worley or KYLE KENDRICK?!?! to anyone, is ridiculous on its face.

Kyle Kendrick is set to make $5 million as a number five starter this year. And despite the increase in his K-rate last year, Kendrick would absolutely be made available in the right deal. Even Worley, who will probably make around a million dollars in 2013 after arbitration, would be moved if the deal is right.

It’s hilarious these two pitchers were dismissed out of hand because of reluctance on the part of the Phillies. If anything, Boston would be the ones laughing through the phone at the thought of Worley or Kendrick being the centerpiece in any trade for Jacoby Ellsbury.

So, who does Shapiro think the trade target should be?

They might part with Cliff Lee, though.

Lee was placed on waivers last August. Philadelphia pulled him back and he was never traded, but the fact they were willing to place him on waivers means they might be willing to trade him, for the right offer.

Is Lee overpriced? For all practical purposes, yes.

Even if you think last year was merely an off one for Lee and not a sign of things to come, he is still owed about $100 million for the next four seasons. Of course, if Zack Greinke who has had one season in his career in which he finished with an earned run average under 3.00 is going to get a contract worth more than $100 million on the current free agent market, then Lee is only marginally overpriced.

First of all, Lee did not have an off year for the Phillies, unless you’re going by the oh-so-modern metric of win totals. His ERA of 3.16 was higher than his 2012 ERA of 2.40, but well below his career ERA of 3.59. He led the league in SO/BB at 7.39 and also walked a league-low 1.2 batters per nine innings, all while striking out 207 batters in 211 innings.

Yes, he had a problem with the longball and struggled for a stretch in the middle of the season, but Lee’s overall numbers suggest that anyone who thinks they’re buying low on him is gravely mistaken.

It’s difficult to imagine the Phils trading Clifton Phifer for a player who has missed most of two of the last three seasons due to injury.

And someone who only has one year left on his contract.

And is on the verge of a potentially big payday.

On the other hand, if the Phillies are considering Ellsbury, perhaps now is the best time to buy, while his value is lowest. If the Phillies reasonably believe that Jacoby is healthy and capable of being the player he was in 2011, and they’re reasonably sure they could sign him to a contract extension, or re-sign him once he becomes a free agent after next year, then perhaps Amaro might be motivated to get the ball rolling.

Ellsbury will enter the 2013 season at 29 years old, younger than Bourn, Hamilton, Pagan and Victorino. He has a better combination of power, youth and speed than any remaining free agent. But he’s also a left-handed hitter, which isn’t ideal with the Phils’ lefty-heavy lineup.

He also made just over $8 million last year, and will probably get a slight bump up this year in arbitration, even though he missed half of last season. Figure around $10-11 million for 2012.

Basically, it’s really hard seeing a way these two teams could swing a deal. Even though the Phillies would be buying low, they’d still have to give up valuable prospects and/or big league players for a guy who they’re only guaranteed to have for one year. And it’s hard to imagine the Phils aggressively pursuing a contract extension with Ellsbury, given his recent medical history, before the season begins.

If the Phillies are going to pursue the trade market for an outfielder, a trade for Justin Upton (however unlikely) would make more sense than Ellsbury. So don’t expect anything to happen with the Red Sox and Phillies concerning the young Boston center fielder next week.

Still, as has been mentioned over and over and over again over the last few weeks, “Ruben Amaro likes to make a big splash.”

I mean, after all, he’s due, right?

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Tags: Boston Red Sox Jacoby Ellsbury Philadelphia Phillies