ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- For anyone who believes that Jacoby Ellsbury’s fractured bone in his right foot might have a chilling effect on his market value going forward, you don’t have to look far for an example that puts that quaint notion to rest.
Less than two months ago, Dustin Pedroia signed an eight-year, $110 million contract extension three years after he fractured the same bone in his left foot so badly he only played 75 games and needed surgery and the insertion of a screw.
Ellsbury’s injury, by comparison, is a scratch. He chipped a bit off the top of the bone, won’t need any kind of surgical procedure and should be back in the lineup within a couple of weeks. If the Sox's playoff position was in jeopardy, chances are pretty good Ellsbury would still be playing. He played seven games after fouling the ball off his foot Aug. 28, which also should allay some of the sniping about his willingness to play hurt.
The Sox, though, see the upside in allowing the major leagues’ leading base stealer to rest a bit, figuring their postseason chances are enhanced by having a healed Ellsbury at the top of the order in October, rather than having him favoring his foot.
So it looks like a win-win for both Ellsbury and the Sox. He doesn’t have to go into his free-agent winter with renewed whispers about his supposed brittleness, engendered by two previous long stints on the disabled list. The Sox, meanwhile, get the benefit of having one of their best players at full strength, a guy who left a spectacular mark on his first October, posting a .438/.500/.688/1.188 slash line when the Sox swept the Rockies in the 2007 World Series.
Ellsbury’s agent, Scott Boras, has a name for the injuries that Ellsbury sustained -- fractured ribs when he collided with Adrian Beltre, partially dislocated shoulder when Reid Brignac fell on it -- and now the small navicular fracture. Boras calls them “impact” injuries. He likes that better than Jonny Gomes’ term, “car wreck,” which makes Boras shudder a bit. For him, that implies lasting damage.
When it comes to impact injuries that occur to elite players, teams have shown little fear of plunging ahead and signing those players to lucrative long-term deals, Boras says. There is Pedroia, of course, but Boras gladly will rattle off other names. Outfielder Magglio Ordonez tore up his knee in a collision with second baseman Willie Harris, spent two stints on the DL and required two surgeries, but that winter he signed a five-year, $85 million contract with the Tigers, at the time the second-largest contract Detroit had ever given a player.
Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki was hit by a pitch that fractured his wrist in 2010, but that didn’t keep the Rockies from giving him a 10-year, $157.75 million contract extension that winter.
Giants catcher Buster Posey sustained a horrific knee injury in a home-plate collision that some initially thought might be career-threatening. He missed 114 games and had surgery in 2011, but at the start of this season he signed a nine-year, $167 million extension.
Rays third baseman Evan Longoria missed 85 games in 2012 after partially tearing his hamstring during a slide into second base, yet the Rays gave him a six-year, $100 million contract extension days after he underwent surgery to “clean up” the hamstring.
“Teams do not let impact injuries detract them from signing elite players at premium positions,’’ Boras said in a phone conversation Tuesday.
Jose Reyes is a guy whose injuries are not of the “impact” variety -- hamstring and abdominal strains in the previous two years before he became a free agent -- and that didn’t keep the Marlins from signing him to a six-year, $106 million deal prior to the 2012 season, or keep the Jays from trading for him a year later.
“So let’s stop the conjecture,’’ Boras said, “and let’s deal with the reality.’’
The reality is Ellsbury will get his money. He might even get it from the Red Sox, although the Sox will have to be prepared to offer him more years and more money than they gave Pedroia. Ellsbury, who turns 30 on Wednesday, is one year older than Matt Kemp, who signed an eight-year, $160 million deal with the Dodgers and can be said, like Ellsbury, to have had just one monster year.
That’s the neighborhood in which Boras can expect to place Ellsbury. A little bone break won’t alter that.