What to do with Ellsbury
IT'S BEST WAY TO GET PITCHING
Yes, if I'm the Red Sox, I trade Jacoby Ellsbury, but only if I get at least one starting pitcher in return, preferably a young one who will remain under my control for several years to come.
And then I duck for cover, because I know such a move will probably create quite the uproar back home.
In the short run, I know that Ellsbury, who's still popular, could make the Sox look far worse if he's traded than Josh Reddick did. Entering his free-agent year, Ellsbury has all the motivation in the world to have a great season, one that will drive his market value into the stratosphere come next winter.
But the Red Sox don't expect to re-sign Ellsbury next season, and he has had trouble staying on the field because of freak injuries (colliding with a human brick wall, man falling on his shoulder). Even though the Sox would be selling low because he's coming off an injury-shortened season, there may be a win-now team willing to chance a one-year rental that would part with a major league-ready arm in return.
Am I sending up the white flag for 2013 by trading Ellsbury? Hardly. I can move the Flying Hawaiian, Shane Victorino, to center, and sign another outfielder to play right field. Maybe even Josh Hamilton. I have Jackie Bradley Jr. waiting in the wings. But I need pitching. And if I could add an arm who could help me in 2013 and beyond, I'd do it.
HE'S TOO VALUABLE TO DEAL NOW
There's no way the Red Sox should trade Jacoby Ellsbury.
Not now. Not yet.
He'll become a free agent after the 2013 season, and no doubt he'll have a big year as long as he can remain healthy. While I do believe he'll produce, I don't think it will compare to his 2011 season, when he posted a .321 average with 32 home runs, 105 RBIs and 39 stolen bases.
Still, the Red Sox need production from their center fielder this season. Even though it appears, with the recent acquisitions of Jonny Gomes and Shane Victorino, that the Red Sox are prepping for a potential trade for Ellsbury, it wouldn't make sense for Boston to pull it off at this point. If the Red Sox find themselves hopelessly out of contention at the July 31 trade deadline, that would be a different story altogether.
Assuming he does become a free agent, Ellsbury and agent Scott Boras will look for a huge payday. Those negotiations could drag on throughout next winter for the Red Sox or the team that would acquire him if Boston were to trade him now.
The speculation of a trade began once the Red Sox agreed to terms to Victorino on Tuesday, but GM Ben Cherington should sit tight and see how the team is playing in July, then decide whether to trade Ellsbury.
It's this simple: When Ellsbury is healthy and productive at the top of the order, the Red Sox win. They need that to happen in 2013.