Karpin: “El-Batross of a Contract Handcuffs Yanks

Jacoby Ellsbury’s seven year, $153 million dollar deal has turned into one of the worst Yankee signings in the free agent era. Can’t say I’m surprised. When Ellsbury was about to become a free agent, my assessment of a potential signing was “I wouldn’t touch him with a 10 foot pole.”

Ellsbury’s contract, which features a no-trade clause, has not only become an albatross, it could cost them more than money in the very near future.

With the Yankees’ desire to remain under the luxury tax threshold of $197 million dollars, Ellsbury’s deal is getting in the way of trying to improve the team. The Yankees have made it known they would be willing to pick up half of the remaining $68 million on the contract but so far, they have not been able to shed themselves of a player who really doesn’t figure, barring injury, to be much of a factor in 2018. Aaron Hicks, who still has a lot to prove as an everyday player, is being penciled in as the starting center fielder.

With Hicks, Brett Gardner, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, (not to mention Clint Frazier) Ellsbury doesn’t figure to see much playing time unless someone gets hurt. Does he really want to hang around and be an insurance policy or does he want to resurrect his career with a fresh start somewhere else?

Bringing back Jay Bruce does not solve all of the Mets’ problems but it is a step in the right direction. The 30-year old is in his prime and if he puts up his usual numbers, that will provide support for Yoenis Cespedes in the lineup so the deal makes sense.

I would’ve liked to have seen the Mets take a stab at signing Lorenzo Cain and move Michael Conforto to right but Bruce is a solid signing.

Speaking of Conforto in center field, I’m not questioning his talent and abilities as an everyday major league player. He has a chance to be a star, but, like some scouts and other baseball observers who have already made their feelings known, I’m wondering whether Conforto is more suited for a corner outfielder spot. How will the wear and tear in center field affect Conforto’s offense, both later in the season and in the future.

NY Daily News baseball columnist John Harper has a very viable suggestion for the Mets. Harper suggested the Mets should sign free agent infielder Edwardo Nunez. The 31-year old was a spark for the Red Sox down the stretch last season after he was acquired from the Giants at the trade deadline.

The Mets need a leadoff hitter and more of a presence at the top of the lineup. I agree with Harper that Nunez fits that bill but, excuse the pun, there is a catch. Nunez is not a good defender but if his offensive contributions outweigh the defensive liabilities, then it could turn into a decent signing.

I disagreed with Harper’s assessment that Bruce “showed last year he can handle first base well enough to offer protection” for Dominic Smith if he doesn’t pan out. The Mets better hope Smith is the guy because Bruce did not show me that he was ready for a little more action at first. He’s only played 15 major league games at that position. During his short stint at first with the Mets, we didn’t get to see Bruce make enough throws to second base not to mention, mastering the nuances of the position so they become second nature.

It’s been an unusually slow off season when it comes to signing “prominent” free agents. In the recent past, players like Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish would’ve certainly been signed by now. So why are so many free agents still looking for jobs?

Once the statistical revolution began, owners were being played for big money contracts for players who, in the end, were not worth it. That same statistical revolution is now coming back to bite the players in the “you know where.” Agents like Scott Boras grasped this new wave of numbers and used them to promote their clients and for the most part, it was successful. That’s how Jason Heyward got his huge deal. Boras used the “defensive metrics” to sell Heyward to the Cubs who are probably regretting dishing out all that money for a decent, but not great player.

Baseball’s General Manager position has undergone a transformation to younger GM’s who value analytics more than their predecessors. They’re also less inclined to react emotionally, thus you have a slow moving free agent market. It may be a portent of things to come next season. Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, who will headline a star studded free agent market after the 2018 season, may not see the mega deals that they’ve been projected to earn.

Dodgers 1B Cody Bellinger said he’s put on 15 lbs. of muscle since the World Series ended. Remember the “Noah.” Last spring, Noah Syndergaard announced he had put on 17 lbs. of muscle and was going to throw a ball “through a wall.” In late April, Syndergaard injured his lat muscle and missed most of the remainder of the 2017 season. Some attributed the injury to his workout regimen in the previous off season. Bellinger already has a long swing and added muscle could inhibit his bat speed. We shall see.

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