jacoby ellsburyThe conversation has already started, spurred no doubt by superagent Scott Boras: is Jacoby Ellsbury worth $100 million?

The speedy outfielder, who turns 30 on Wednesday, is having his second excellent season in three years, and figures to cash in as one of the few top tier free agents this offseason. Some execs, according to that Jon Heyman piece, think Ellsbury cracks $100 million, and Boras is certainly doing his part to suggest that Ellsbury provides far more value than Carl Crawford did at the time he signed for seven years and $142 million.

Although Ellsbury undoubtedly provides value in areas other than with the bat, you can’t ignore that this season – his walk year – is the only season he’s posted an OPS+ over 100 besides his MVP-caliber season in 2011. The upside appears to be as tantalizing as the downside is disappointing.

Indeed, so much of Ellsbury’s value comes from his speed that I feel like we might be in for a Michael Bourn redux discussion this Winter, in terms of Ellsbury’s expected price tag. Ultimately, Bourn – a fellow speedy center fielder who derives much of his value from defense and baserunning – got just four years and $48 million from the Indians after entering the offseason as a Scott Boras $100 million rumor special.

Don’t get me wrong. I think Ellsbury is a superior overall player to Bourn. But something to consider: Ellsbury’s season WAR figures heading into free agency: 4.1, 2.1, -0.2, 9.1, 1.4, 5.7. Bourn was at 4.6, 4.3, 3.7, and 6.1.

Potentially complicating the discussion even further? Ellsbury is hurt. He injured his foot last week, and it turned out to be a compression fracture. Apparently that’s not serious enough to keep him out the rest of the way – the Red Sox expect him back before the end of the season – but it’s a mild injury concern to add into his turn in free agency. Ellsbury also missed significant chunks of the 2010 (ribs) and 2012 (shoulder) seasons with injuries. Both injuries would fall into the “freak accident” category, but it’s a part of his story. (Also part of his story? Ellsbury will be tied to draft pick compensation.)

That’s all well and good, but … is any of this even relevant to the Cubs?

Eh. There are comments here and there from national guys who say they expect the Cubs to be active in free agency this year, but I expect those comments have more to do with a general perception that the Cubs are a “large market” team that has shed a bunch of money in the last two years. As we’ve all been tracking closely, the Cubs may not yet spend big in 2014, given the state of the renovation and the impending TV deal. I anticipate that any Ellsbury pursuit by the Cubs will be much like other top free agent “pursuits” in the last two years: follow the market, see what happens. If he gets his megadeal, fine. It probably won’t be the Cubs. If he slips into late in the offseason, maybe the Cubs keep monitoring (unless they’ve already picked up an outfielder). With only Nate Schierholtz a virtual lock to return as a starter in the outfielder next year, the Cubs do have some positions to play with, if nothing else.

The Cubs do have some interesting near-term decisions to make in the outfield, though. Yes, Albert Almora, Jorge Soler, and possibly Kris Bryant could be coming on fast, each claiming an outfield spot by 2015 or 2016 (maybe even 2014 in Bryant’s case, if he moves off of third base). But as brightly as their prospect stars shine, we all know the story with prospects: sometimes they flame out. Sometimes they break. Rarely do you see your best laid plans come to fruition, and it would be foolish to plan on all three players’ trajectories working out perfectly in the next two years. Further, although the Cubs might have a complementary outfielder breaking through in the next year or two, there aren’t any clear, first division starters among the AAA and AA crew.

At the same time, is getting in bed with six years of an Ellsbury the right move? That could be a pricey investment that is most useful in its first two years (when the Cubs might be bad anyway), and considerably less useful in the latter four (when the Cubs might be good, but Ellsbury would be older and slower – and could even be approaching fourth outfielder status, depending on the prospects’ progression).

When the offseason rolls around and we start digging into these things more closely, I reckon I’ll be throwing my hat into a three or four-year deal for Shin-Soo Choo, rather than a six or seven-year deal for Jacoby Ellsbury. But, right now, it’s still too early to even say what each player is actually going to get – or what other players might enter onto the market via trade (or, hell, what teams are going to be looking to do what).

Right now, this is just an abstract discussion.

  • cubbiehawkeye

    Honestly, I don’t know why we are debating whether Lake should start or not next year. Unless he just has a horrible September he should at least begin the season as a starter. Due to regress and has regressed are two different things. If you don’t see some improvement in the field and his batting starts to take a turn for the worse then come next mayish we have this debate. IMO

  • Sean

    It is comical to hear people try and think of every trick in the book to defend Junior Lake being a future starter and impact player. People just don’t want to concede that he will most likely see a sizable amount of regression. I’m not try to be down on the guy but more or less be realistic about him.

    Yes there is that outside chance he turns out to be a impact guy in this league for a long time because he has the tools to do it but so have a about a 100 other guys before him and have failed. I do think he could be an impact 4-5th OFer on this team in the future, I think it is a very real possibility.

    People are going to say I’m looking for every trick in the book to put him down but I’m not. I’m just using logical and analytical sense to say that he most likely won’t ever be that impact starter in the future. I hope is but I doubt it. I do think he should be the starter in CF next season. He at least deserves a shot to be a starter and I think he should get a fair shake and be given that opportunity to begin the season at least. But I’m not expecting huge things from him though. If he turns out to be a stud great! but if he doesn’t then don’t complain about his production not being what you want it to be

    • cubbiehawkeye

      So ruling him out as a starter next year because he is due to regress isn’t comical?

      • Justin

        Hell, Lake could regress a good amount and still be the best player on the Cubs. He’s such a long athletic dude I am hoping that he is just getting it together this yr.

        • Brains

          All it would take for Lake to be the best player on the Cubs would be two legs, vision, and some glasses.

        • hansman1982

          Lake could increase his OPS by 60 points and still not be the best hitter on the team.

    • http://Jplgxk AlwaysNextYear

      It’s funny to see people declare Lake as anything other then a impact player as well due to small sample size. What’s funny is the fact your same beliefs are the same thing your critizing as well

      • Losing makes u better 62-100 > 75-87

        This is a terrible season and everyone gets all but hurt when this guy Sean points out some logic while you senial Junior Lake fans say he has athletic and has done well in a small sample size. Nate Schierholtz was a stud early in the season and has regressed just as the saber metrics suggested he would. Yeah Schierholtz is great surprise but he has regressed to what everyone thought he was a good platoon player. I’m not sure if lake should be used in a platoon role but he has the makings of a 4th OFer. Yeah he should probably start next season but that’s only bc this is a terrible roster and there is no one else

        • http://Jplgxk AlwaysNextYear

          Butthurt LMAO. Ok buddy just making the same point he made cause what he is arguing is the same thing he is preaching. I’m in neither corner I wanna see more before I chime in but to declare one side to the other is ridicoulous, Nobody knows what this kids future holds so let’s just wait and see huh

          • Starlin Backer

            Exactly. Schierholtz has a long enough history to make a more certain prediction. Can’t we just enjoy watching this guy play and see what develops?

            • Losing makes u better 62-100 > 75-87

              I enjoy watching him play too but people who put other people down for giving analytical statistics to show he is most likely to see regression over the course of a longer duration of time is just ridiculous. I hope he becomes a star. I just can’t stand anyone who critizes another for giving statistics to back their argument.

    • TK

      Ellsbury @ $100 mil = NO PLAYOFFS
      Lake @ (?) $0.5 mil (?) = NO PLAYOFFS

      Let the kid sink or swim! It would be foolish not to!

      • Losing makes u better 62-100 > 75-87

        TK: never in this argument did I say I want the cubs to sign Ellsbury. I have actually stated on multiple occasions that I don’t think we should over pay for diminishing assets

  • Soda Popinski

    I hope we don’t go after Jacoby. A lengthy contract for oft-injured legs on the wrong side of 30 doesn’t seem like a fit. No thank you.

  • Die hard

    He’s going to stay with the Red Sox who will get a home field discount as he wants to end career there at age 40

    • SenorGato

      If that were a possibility it probably would have happened by now.

  • CGruegs45

    Juck Facoby

  • Die hard

    Appears Soler is injury prone too

  • Brains

    This is one depressed group of sports fans. Even the ones who think they’re being optimistic are clearly in despair over the obvious.

  • THEOlogical

    Why are a lot of you on here thinking that they know what the FO wants and don’t want? Why do you think we want to hear your “expert” predictions on what the Cubs will do in the next 3 yrs? Do you have a time machine? Are you so good at foretelling the future, but can’t understand why no one has called to make you their GM? I have an idea, how about seeing how we do in the off season with trades and FA signings before you “predict” how good we’re going o be in 2016. It’s good to say things out loud and do our own random predictions, but don’t come on here saying this team will be sucky for yrs to come, or only one yr and will be W.S. bound in a few. If your going to say that, then start off with ” I believe” or something that shows it’s your opinion. Better yet, how about if your inaccurate predictions don’t come true, Brett gets to bounce you from the site for good. Just asking for everyone to have fun with prediting seasons and leave the truth to those who handle the job, and that’s the FO.

    • Mr. B. Patient


      Guessing what happens in the future is part of the fun of being a sports fan. It has NO impact on what really happens.

      • THEOlogical

        Lol, I’m relaxed. I thought I covered having fun with predictions. I just get tired of hearing these people go on and on about how the FO will do this or won’t do that. Or how we won’t be competitive for yrs to come or that we will in 4 yrs. I’m just saying let’s let the the guys who do that for a living show us which way we’re going to go. It’s great to have your statements on what you THINK will happen but help us not think you need therapy by poinxting out that it’s all your thoughts. And that you actually don’t know for sure what your saying will absolutely happen. Future predicting = fun. Actually arguing that you know without a doubt we suck for yrs to come and that this FO will do this or that = straight jacket and heavy meds.

    • Losing makes u better 62-100 > 75-87

      I get annoyed also by people outlandish statements like they are part of the FO and they know best, at the same time this is a message board on a cubs blog so I expect that kind of stuff, so you can’t get to mad I guess.

  • Jason P

    Nice to see Wood have a good outing. His numbers overall are pretty pedestrian since the all-star break, but he’s still got a 3.7 WAR, which puts him right on the precipice of being a top-20 starter in the league this year. He probably won’t be able to put up an ERA right at 3 every year, but even still it looks like we can safely assume he’s around for the long-haul as a 3/4 starter.

    But I’d still like to see them wait off on a contract extension for him. He’s under control for a couple more years, so no point in overpaying right now for numbers he may not be able to repeat.

    • Jason P

      Just realized I posted this on the wrong thread. Oh well.

  • cub2014

    If you look at the career numbers,
    Sweeney should be in center,
    Choo in left, Schierholz in right. Lake
    would play all 3 OF spots and get
    400 AB mostly for Schierholtz. With
    Bogusevic as pinchhitter.

    Sweeney .280/.339
    Schierholtz .260/.310
    Bogusevic .234/.314
    Choo .290/.390
    *Dejesus .280/.353
    last 3 years .254/.335
    *If they decide to bring him back on
    the cheap

    If Sweeney had as many PA as Schierholtz
    he would have as many homers statistically.

    The one year Bogusevic was a regular he hit
    .209 otherwise for his career as a non regular

  • http://permalink papad1945

    Give me a break, this guy is always hurt. Go with one of our young guys and let it roll.