Jacoby Ellsbury NoMaas Yankees Red Sox Brian Cashman

As explained in our introductory post, we’d prefer to see the Yankees rebuild, hoard draft picks, etc…but that ain’t happening. Thus, we’re looking at this year’s free agent class and determining who we like.

Fangraphs CrowdSourcing Contract: 6 years / $112 million, $18.7 million AAV

In what would result in a Johnny Damon-like burning of jerseys, we would throw the city of Boston for a loop by signing the 30-year old centerfielder.

Ellsbury is the best free agent on the market not named Robinson Cano. He’s an extremely talented all-around player, and basically Brett Gardner on Arodian pharmaceuticals.

In 2013, he hit .298/.355/.426 (113 wRC+) with a major league leading 52 SBs in 56 attempts (a whopping 93% success rate). His WAR of 5.8 was 13th-best in MLB, only a touch behind Robinson Cano’s 6.0.

Over the last 3 seasons, he’s been the 10th-most valuable player in MLB, despite only playing 74 games in 2012 (freak shoulder injury). Additionally, he’s only two seasons removed from a superstar season, in which he hit .321/.376/.552 (150 wRC+) with 39 SBs, good for an incredible MLB-leading WAR of 9.1.

So in his last two full seasons, he’s put up a WAR of 9.1 and 5.8. That’s beast mode.

Contributing to his value is not only solid hitting, but his aggression on the basepaths and above-average defense. He’s a career 83% base-stealer, which includes the 93% he put up in 2013. His defense has been rated highly by both UZR and Defensive Runs Saved in each of the last three seasons. TotalZone has been positive on his defense for 2 of the past 3 seasons. Having Ellsbury and Brett Gardner in the outfield would also be a large boon for the Yankees’ pitching staff.

Recently turning 30 (September), he’s not old in athletic terms and is still in his prime. If he’s signed to a 5- or 6-year deal, there are obviously concerns about a speed-based player losing value around age 34/35. But, what about ages 30-32? There is no real need to worry about his speed during these years, and being an annual 4-5 win player over that time frame is a distinct possibility. Plus, since he’s not old yet, you can’t ignore the MVP-caliber production he put up only two seasons ago — that means you might get lucky with another monster campaign.

Ellsbury is one of the better players in baseball, and has been worth well over $25 million in two of the past three seasons. There’s no reason to think he’ll drop a cliff.

So burn your jerseys, Boston. We like Jacoby.