jacoby ellsburyJacoby Ellsbury is a 30-year-old outfielder. He derives a great deal of his ability from the prowess of his legs. He has put up fantastic seasons interspersed among injury-filled, ineffective seasons. He is also a free agent. One for whom it has recently been suggested that a seven-year, $142 million contract might be the starting point of discussions.

Sound like a fit for the 2014 Chicago Cubs? They of the relatively limited current resources, the long-term rebuilding plan, and the grim prospects for immediate success?

Of course not. There’s no trick question there. At his conceivable market rate, Jacoby Ellsbury is probably not a great fit for the Chicago Cubs.

And yet, this afternoon, another nationally-reported rumor connects the Cubs to Ellsbury. In some ways, it’s just another in a long string of such reports, ostensibly connecting thin dots between the Cubs’ front office’s background, Ellsbury’s position, the Cubs’ needs, and the market in which the Cubs play.

In another way, it’s the first one of those reports that I actually buy. Here’s the report, courtesy of Mark Feinsand, a Yankees beat reporter for the NY Daily News:

The report discounts the Mariners’ involvement in Ellsbury, notes a possibly thin market for his services, and then – with the limited characters he has left – names only one team that is interested: the Cubs.

Crazy, right? In some ways, the tweet suggests the Cubs are among the most interested teams in Ellsbury’s services. But if you read it more explicitly, you’ll see that the focus is not on the Cubs’ interest, but on their positioning. And that’s why I buy this one.

If we’ve learned anything over the first two years of this front office’s tenure, it’s that they look for surplus value wherever they can find it. It’s no surprise, then, that they’ve been relatively inactive in the upper end of the free agent market, because there’s rarely ever any surplus value to be found there. So it will probably be with Ellsbury.

But if the Cubs lie in the weeds (“stealthily wait in the wings,” if you prefer Feinsand’s language), wait Ellsbury’s situation out, then you never know what might happen in late January or early February. Maybe Ellsbury hasn’t been able to lock down that seven-year deal, and maybe his demands scale back. Maybe other suitors have spent their funds, and maybe his options become constricted. And maybe surplus value appears, and the Cubs pounce.

I have no doubt that this scenario is not only plausible, but likely. Very few teams are in the position to (1) wait out the market entirely, caring not whether a top-end free agent falls to them or not; and (2) have the resources to sign that top-end free agent to a relatively friendly deal. The Cubs, thanks to low expectations for 2014 and revenue that, while it isn’t as strong as it will be, is still enough to float a bigger deal, find themselves in this unique position.

Does that make the Cubs a suitor for Ellsbury? Not really. Not any more than they’d be a suitor for any other free agent that could fill a positional hole, and who fell to them late in the offseason. But, hey. Might as well lie in the weeds, keep in contact, and see what happens.

Do I think the Cubs will actually land Ellsbury with a strategy like this? Probably not. His agent, Scott Boras, made certain to respond quickly to the “thin market” part of Feinsand’s report:

Boras gonna Boras.

Whether the Cubs ever actually make a serious bid on Ellsbury, or even pursue him tangentially at all, I have no doubt that they’d be plenty happy to monitor the process and pounce if there’s a chance for value.

  • Brains

    Waiting for Jed to trade a top prospect for a waiver line player, and then release the player a month later.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      This is the moment you crossed over.

      • Brains

        lol, ok sorry

        • hansman

          lol? One does not simply “lol” after a comment like that.

          • Brains

            it hasn’t been much better than that so far for the team. drafts going great, Jed, not so great, in any way, under any measure

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              But you have now demonstrated that you are uninterested in thoughtful points and discussion, instead preferring ridiculous and unsupportable hyperbole. It doesn’t further the discussion, and it is designed only to aggrandize yourself. I am not interested in it.

              • Brains


              • hansman

                “…you have now…”

                Welcome to the party, Brett. You are beyond “fashionably late”.

                • Brains

                  hansman is one of the guys who trained me to make comments like that. you all stole my innocence. i just wanted the cubs to try to win.

  • Oswego Chris

    Supposedly new posting system has been approved

  • Eric

    If Boros’ comments about the Cubs came from anyone other than him (or another player agent) I think I would find myself kinda-sorta-maybe agreeing with them. He’s correct in that the fans don’t necessarily come for the park, but he forgets the park is a big part of the experience.

  • cub1

    It could be a great fit on a high salary 3-yr deal. He would be a free agent around the same time Almora is ready. I hate the fact that we lose a pick on it though. The fact that the Red Sox aren’t expected to retain his services makes me think he isn’t interested in such a deal.

  • Show me your TD’s

    Im all for this rebuilding plan but im tired of seeing a pathetic team on the field. The cubs need veteran players, they dont need veteran backups. Look at all the teams that played in the playoffs the cardinals and the Bosox especially. They have a good combination of youth and age. You can use the abilities of the youth but if they all grow together they will never get the guidance from older players that have been in the league, which i personally think is a very iportant part of having prospects. I would really like to see the cubs add a position player or two that WILL start and SHOULD start that can help the young guys coming. Im frankly tired of seeing nothing done. At this rate I’m almost starting to think the ricketts family cares more about maximizing their profit and will refuse to put a competetive team on the field. I want to see more done for the big league team. I am also a fan of Shark, and i completely agree with his view. He’s not committing long term until he sees the cubs do something that is interesting enough to see a winning season in the future. Because we have great position players but we need pitching and if we have to wait on prospects it will be well over 2 years for us to wait. Does anyone feel the same way?

    • Show me your TD’s

      at the end i mean great position prospects…

  • Voice of Reason

    Get ellsbury for value? That’s impossible. If the cubs could get him for 3 years at $12 million a year there would be another team that would certainly offer more. Its ridiculous to even say that.

    And, why would we want him? He cannot stay healthy. In 6 major league seasons he has played over 145 games twice. He has missed one out of every 3 games in his career.

    I’d rather trade for Kemp with dodgers paying a bunch of his salary. Kemp has power and speed and can’t stay healthy. Ellsbury just has speed.

    • bbmoney

      I’m actually a lot more worried about Kemp’s injury issues the past year or so than Ellsbury’s.

      Shoulder surgery x 2, ankle injuries (least concerning), lingering hamstring issues at 29…..he’d have to be really cheap for me to want to give up any kind of prospect in a trade. Fangraphs posted something on Kemp the other day thinking he has negative trade value and wouldn’t be claimed if placed on waivers.

      • Voice of Reason

        If the Dodgers are sincere in wanting to move him then they will be willing to eat quite a bit of paper. And, what we give them wouldn’t be much of a prospect at all as we’re helping them free up money just like when we moved Soriano!

        Say… get Kemp’s salary down to $15 million dollars year for the remainder of the deal??

        I’d much rather do that then sign Ellsbury for $16 to $18 million dollars a year for 6 or 7 years.

        Remember, Ellsbury has missed one out of every 3 games in his career. If you’re going to add salary for an outfielder, make it Kemp over Ellsbury!

  • cub1

    Kemp hasn’t been much healthier the past couple years, but I agree he could be a good fit as well. I think Ellsbury is the superior defender though?

  • Voice of Reason

    Yes ellsbury is better defender, but when you as fragile as he is maybe he shouldn’t go balls out on defense??

    The cubs arent going to pony up for ellsbury.

  • cub1

    lol, especially if he is going to be crashing into the ivy! I could get on board with Kemp, but his salary is quite high as well, it all depends on how much of it the dodgers would eat

  • terencemann

    I don’t know, Prince Fielder signed pretty late in the off-season and it didn’t really affect his final deal.

  • Scott

    I wouldn’t mind seeing Ellsbury in a Cubs jersey, but I’m not wild about the idea of spending $120M+ on a player who has a history of injuries and who is now 30 years and is about to be on the wrong side of his prime. Not that he couldn’t be productive, but seems risky to “pony up” for Ellsbury. If you can get him for a bargain though..

  • Pingback: Lukewarm Stove: Ellsbury, Padres Needs, Posting Deal, Pitcher Deals, Three-Team Trade, More | Bleacher Nation | Chicago Cubs News, Rumors, and Commentary()