- Andrew Marchand, ESPN Senior Writer
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The Yankees guaranteed nearly $300 million to three free agents this offseason in hopes the trio could replace Robinson Cano's offense. Brian McCann ($85M), Jacoby Ellsbury ($153M) and Carlos Beltran ($45M) have failed so far.
The Yankees have scored just 245 runs in their first 62 games. Through 62 games in 2013 -- with a Game 62 lineup that featured Vernon Wells in left, Kevin Youkilis at first, Chris Stewart catching, Reid Brignac at short and David Adams at third -- the Yankees had tallied 252 runs. But they were 10 games over then. Now, they are just a .500 team.
With 100 games to go, the question that seems to fair ask in their first seasons is this: Are these free agents stars?
What I mean is: Are these players who can carry the Yankees' load offensively?
They haven't been that so far -- although Ellsbury has been OK. There is plenty of time to change the narrative. But if it continues the trio will be a more than quarter-billion dollar disappointment. Brian Cashman didn't immediately return a phone call seeking his opinions on the subject.
Let's take a look at some of the evidence.
Trending: McCann is a seven-time All-Star, but he has had bad seasons as well -- at least one very bad one. While his career average is .274 and his career OPS is .815, he batted .230 with a .699 OPS in 2012.
McCann's higher average and OPS seasons came in the first half of his career. In his initial five seasons (2005-2009), his batting average was .293 with an .853 OPS. Over the past four full seasons (2010-2013) with the Braves, his average was .257 with a .786 OPS.
New York Yankees
He will start Monday night's game batting .225 with a .647 OPS. The catching position is not much of an offensive spot these days. McCann's .647 OPS is 11th among all catchers in baseball.
Still, the Yankees' design in giving the 30-year-old McCann a contract for five years and $85 million (with a $15 million option) was to have a serious advantage in a weak hitting position.
McCann is renowned for handling a pitching staff, but he throws runners out at around an average rate -- and you could keep Stewart to do that.
It is too early to say McCann was a bad signing. He is adjusting to a number of things: from moving away from his hometown of Atlanta to the American League, to trying to live up to a huge, new deal.
It is also a little unfair to totally question the move yet, because there weren't many, including me, who didn't think that McCann was a good sign. However, it is fair to wonder if the Yankees would have been far better to have signed Russell Martin for two years and $17 million before the 2013 season.
At that point, however, Hal Steinbrenner had his $189M goal and the front office was not allowed to strike such a deal. In hindsight, the Martin move would have given the Yankees much more flexibility going forward.
New York Yankees
"Why do we have him?" Valentine said. "I've been asked that by so many people."
That brings us to Ellsbury. Ellsbury's contract is for seven years and $153 million. That is star money. There are things he does that win games that don't shine as brightly when you look at his baseball reference page. He is so proficient at stealing bases that late in games he can move around the diamond just with his legs.
But right now, Ellsbury is in the midst of a 13-game hitting streak. He is hitting .287 with a .761 OPS. He has stolen 18 bags, which projects to nearly the 52 he swiped in 2013. He has scored 30 runs, which, if continues that pace, would give him 78 on the season. In years he has not been hurt, Ellsbury scores around 100 runs or more.
So where are we going with this? The Red Sox barely had interest in Ellsbury in the neighborhood he was shopping. What did they know?
The one thing everyone agreed upon is that Ellsbury's contract is one that probably only has diminishing returns. With his injury history and his reliance on his legs, what type of player will he be when he reaches his mid-30s. He turns 31 in September.
New York Yankees
Ellsbury is a fine player. He has done OK, but hasn't been anything that special. Why did the Red Sox let him leave without a fight?
Beltran can't be judged, yet he can be: When the Yankees didn't try to maneuver before 2012 to add Carlos Beltran, it was in part because they were worried about his injury history. After two healthy seasons in St. Louis, they convinced themselves to take the chance on him. They have signed him for three years.
Beltran has only played in 37 games, so it is a bit early to judge his .218 average and .672 OPS. However, he is on a three-year, $45 million contract. What can the Yankees' reasonably expect from him when he is already 37? Will they be paying a player big dollars as he breaks down toward the end of his career?
There are a lot of stories still to be written about the trio of free agents the Yankees signed to improve their offense, but it hasn't started well. It makes you wonder how much it will improve.
QUESTION: Do you think there are better days for McCann, Ellsbury and Beltran?