For Ellsbury to re-sign with the Red Sox, he would have to be willing to accept a five-year deal that likely would not surpass $100 million. The Mariners, Rangers, Yankees, Tigers, Giants, and Phillies seem to have some form of interest, but whether they go into the 6-8 year range at $20 million plus per season remains to be seen.
Ellsbury is a prototypical leadoff man, the sort Tigers fans have desired for years. He gets on base at a career .350 clip and is a force on the base paths, with three seasons of more than 50 steals. Though Ellsbury has not come close to replicating the numbers since, he is just two years removed from his remarkable 2011 season, in which he hit hit .321/.376/.552 with 32 home runs and 105 RBIs, finishing behind only Justin Verlander in the MVP vote.
He's fast. He doesn't strike out. He gets on base. He steals bases. He doesn't get caught stealing (Ellsbury was 52-for-56 this year). He also plays excellent defense in center field, ranking third in the American League with a UZR of 10.0 this season. The other defensive metrics were in agreement: Ellsbury ranked second with +13 defensive runs saved and first with 84 plays made outside of his defensive zone.
But there are caveats surrounding Ellsbury. His injury history, the fact the Tigers receive similar production from a less expensive Austin Jackson and team owner Mike Ilitch would need one of his many Brinks trucks full of Benjamins to sign the 30-year-old outfielder.
Consider this: aside from the stolen bases, the Tigers have gotten nearly identical production out of their leadoff spot in the last four seasons. Jackson's .334 wOBA and 107 wRC+ are on par with Ellsbury's, and his career on-base percentage is within six points of Ellsbury's. Advanced defensive metrics gave Ellsbury the edge in center field last year, but overall Jackson has proven to be the superior defender. When you compare their likely salaries -- Jackson should see $5-6 million, while Ellsbury will likely get over $20 million -- and ages, there isn't much reason for the Tigers to pursue Ellsbury.
Stranger things have happened, but the Tigers' purported interest in Ellsbury is quite likely GM Dave Dombrowski just doing his due diligence. You also have to factor in the past actions of Ilitch, which gives the media free reign to make the Tigers a landing spot for any pricey free agent, no matter how far fetched the rumor.
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