I definitely feel the Cubs should hook Ellsbury and I usually hate big money signings. A few things have changed my mind though.
The Cubs are lacking impact in a few places but they have a lot of average to solid players and prospects. I don't buy the injury risk with Ellsbury because both of his serious injuries came from collisions. MLBTR has the expected Salary to be 7-150 million ish so a little over 20 million a season. Fangraphs has a good article about how speed actually ages well and he should hold decent value for a long time.
Few more reasons why I want this to happen.
- A solid farm system allows for the constant influx of average MLB players. When the free agent market is paying about 5-6 million per WAR this proves to be extremely valuable. Look at some current signings: Chris Young (OF)7.25 million, Byrd 16mil/2 seasons, David Murphy 12/2 mil, etc. Free agent relievers are even better examples but not many have signed as of now. Point being is that these types of players are needed but the Cubs wont have to buy them if the farm produces like it should. That savings can then be funneled into an impact player.
- The free agent market is changing and difficult to read. Finding a lot of impact talent seem to be trending down as early extensions are becoming more popular. Castro and Rizzo both signed extensions in the effort to save money over the length of the contracts. Therefore teams need to pounce on the impact players when they are available unless you want to unload your farm system to trade for impact players.
- Moving an "albatross" of a contract is very possible. Say Ellsbury is decling pretty hard and it looks like it will be a total disaster. Carl Crawford, Vernon Wells and Alfonso Soriano all were able to switch teams eventually some sooner than other and the original teams were able to save millions.
- The Cubs have declining payroll obligations and an increase of revenue is on the way with some legal trouble now, the stadium will get renovated and ads will start to stream in money. They are a big market club with a small market front office. Money is going to have to be spent at some point and this is a perfect combination to exploit the mlb payroll system.
There are a lot of half empty Cubs fans right now but I think by just replacing a few weak links. Baez with Barney, Olt at third with Valbuena playing around the inf, Ellsbury in Center and a rebound by Castro I'm totally good with the COF platoons. The bullpen looks improved and starting pitching with some luck we could see a big turnaround.