Theo Epstein and the rest of the brain trust trying to rebuild the Chicago Cubs arrived pretty much wholesale from the Boston Red Sox. As such, it’s not surprising that they’re thinking hard about acquiring some of the players they’d brought to Boston to become part of the Cubs’ future.
Apparently, one such player is center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury. According to the Chicago Tribune, the Cubs “are expected to make a strong push” to sign the one-time All-Star, provided that he digs out of the slump in which he’s begun the 2013 season.
Ellsbury’s overwhelming potential was shown off best in 2011, when he hit .321 with 32 HRs, 105 RBIs and 39 stolen bases. That performance is all but guaranteed to earn him a big-money contract somewhere when he becomes a free agent this offseason.
However, the speedster has also battled a host of injury problems, missing huge chunks of playing time in 2010 and 2012. An ankle injury suffered in spring training may be partly to blame for his disappointing showing this year, which includes a meager .317 on-base percentage and only one homer in 47 games.
With that track record, Ellsbury is not a player the Cubs should be banking their financial future on. The amount of money they’d need to tie up to sign Ellsbury would seriously impact other potential contracts down the road, and the chances he’ll be worth the money are slim at best.
There’s a case to be made that, as Ellsbury isn’t re-injuring anything but simply suffering a series of unrelated maladies, he has a better chance than some repeat Disabled List-ers of escaping his current quagmire and returning to All-Star form.
On the other hand, he’ll turn 30 by the end of this season. If Chicago gave him a five-year deal, what are the odds he’d stay healthy for the duration? And, if he misses even one season, can even the relatively wealthy Cubs afford to throw away 20 percent of a major contract?
Without question, there is the possibility that Ellsbury will bounce back at or near his 2011 form in the future, but even if he does recover by the end of 2013, his long-term prognosis looks awful. For all the tantalizing potential he offers, the Cubs are better off letting another team take the gamble on his health.
After all, Chicago took Nomar Garciaparra off Boston’s hands when the shortstop was about the same age as Ellsbury is now, and look how long Nomar lasted in a Cub uniform.