Without Cano, Ellsbury Doesn’t Make Sense for the Yankees

The New York Yankees made their second big heist of the offseason Tuesday, signing former Red Sox Jacoby Ellsbury to the third largest contract ever given to an outfielder. A grand total of $153 million for seven years, with an option for an eighth year that will push the value of the deal to $169 million.

This deal came at a total shock, as the Yankees finalized the $85 million deal for Brian McCann hours before signing Ellsbury, and only days prior met with Robinson Cano, who lowered his demands but is still millions apart from the Yankees’ offer. This deal just makes New York’s winter even more complicated.

I really just don’t get the deal, and for more than a few reasons. The Yankees had plenty of priorities this offseason, and getting a high-priced upgrade to the OF was not one of them. They’ve now spent over a quarter of a billion dollars to fill two spots in the lineup, and there’s still plenty more holes to fill with a possible self-imposed $189 million cap to worry about thanks to the luxury tax.

For one, they could have upgraded the outfield with cheaper alternatives to Ellsbury. As much as I didn’t want Carlos Beltran (he’s 37 and wants three years), the impact of a deal for him wouldn’t be as bad. Shin-Soo Choo does a lot of things Ellsbury does: steals bases, has more pop, plays CF (although poorly). Heck, even somebody like Corey Hart would be a good no-risk, high reward pickup.

I was afraid of Ellsbury getting a large contract, and my fears are officially realized. Now, Ellsbury is a terrific player. When healthy, he’s one of the top players in the game. He was the runner-up to Justin Verlander for MVP in 2011 and has led the league in stolen bases three times, stealing over 50 bases in each season with amazing efficiency. However, he has a long history of injuries with Boston. A history of speedsters versus the age curve is mixed, some guys playing for a long time like Rickey Henderson, others, like Carl Crawford, not so much. The only way for this deal to make sense is if there is more spending to come.

The Yankees still have other holes to fill right now. They still have to sign Robinson Cano and fill up the giant void in the rotation and the bullpen. Cano recently met with the Seattle Mariners, who seem to be hell bent on outbidding the Yankees for the superstar second baseman. Now, the Yankees don’t want to go above $180 million, so the fact that they paid Ellsbury, who isn’t even close to Cano’s level, over $150 million is just silly. They need Cano, and Cano needs them. If the Yankees want to compete next year, they have to blow past the $189M cap and pay Cano. He’s the heart of the franchise.

Probably the biggest hole the Yankees have right now is the giant void in the rotation. Currently, it’s just composed of CC Sabathia, who had his worst season in the bigs this year, and Ivan Nova, who has been inconsistent in his MLB career, but was brilliant in 2013. From that 2013 rotation, Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes are gone, but Hiroki Kuroda could possibly be on the way back. Which leaves two open spots. You could fill one with Michael Pineda or David Phelps, but that’s only if they are healthy. That’s still a major question mark.

They could fill the rest of the void in the pitching staff through free agency. Matt Garza and Ubaldo Jimenez are the best guys left, but they’re a risk that could boil over into a John Lackey/AJ Burnett situation.

Then there’s the latest Japanese star, Masahiro Tanaka. Just yesterday, MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball agreed to a deal to change the posting system which includes a maximum bidding cap. This would basically allow any posted player to negotiate with any team he wishes; previously the highest bidder had exclusive negotiating rights.

Of course, all of this may not mean a thing if the Yankees decide to buck the $189M cap altogether, and it would help them if A-Rod is suspended for the entire season, freeing up over $25 million. They could still end up signing Cano and putting together a very solid rotation (with high risk), thus making them serious contenders again and a threat to Boston’s crown.

Just imagine a lineup like this:
CF Jacoby Ellsbury
DH Derek Jeter
2B Robinson Cano
1B Mark Teixeira
RF Alfonso Soriano
C Brian McCann
LF Brett Gardner
3B Kelly Johnson
SS Brendan Ryan

And a rotation of this:
LHP CC Sabathia
RHP Hiroki Kuroda
RHP Masahiro Tanaka/Matt Garza
RHP Ivan Nova
RHP Michael Pineda/David Phelps

That’s pretty good, right? One of the best lineups in all of baseball, potentially. That rotation could also be very good. Only problem is, everything has to go right. No more injuries. People like Sabathia and Jeter have to rebound this year. In 2014, the Yankees could potentially be a championship team, or a total disaster and financial white elephant.

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The New York Jets’ Problems Go Beyond the Quarterback

It’s so easy to blame the quarterback of a struggling football team in any city at any level. You always hear the fans and the pundits blame the likes of Peyton Manning and Tony Romo for their short-comings in the playoffs. Why do we forget that this is a team game?

It’s no different here in New York. This city is always hungry for championships in every sport, and anyone who can’t get it done can get the hell out. So when you’re a team like the New York Jets, a team that hasn’t won a championship in 45 years, you’re very quick to call for a change when they’re not getting it done.

Just like for every other team, the first guy whose head Jets fans call for is the quarterback. For the previous four years it was Mark Sanchez, he of two AFC title game trips but also he of a smorgasbord of turnovers, including last Thanksgiving’s butt fumble. Now, it’s the rookie Geno Smith, who has struggled to find any consistency as the Jets themselves have been inconsistent. He has turned the ball over more than anyone else in the NFL

The backup is always the most popular player of a sinking football season; Tim Tebow may have been one of the most popular backups in a long time last year. Greg McElroy was also a popular name Gang Green fans wanted to be given a shot. This year, the guy is Matt Simms, son of Giants great and CBS’ #1 color commentator Phil Simms. He’s the guy fans have been crying for on Twitter and call-ins to WFAN.

But to simply get on the rookie QB would be irresponsible. Geno Smith is in fact one of many problems the New York Jets have, even if they have exceeded many expectations by simply going 5-6 and sticking around in the playoff hunt.

The fact primary problem is the total disregard for acquiring and developing offensive talent by the Jets’ front office. The Jets have probably the worst skill players in the entire NFL. Since 2007, the Jets have used just two first round draft picks on offensive talent, Mark Sanchez and tight end Dustin Keller, who tore his ACL in the preseason this year with the Dolphins after five decent seasons with the Jets.

I mean, just look at the talent Jets quarterbacks have had to deal with the last two seasons. With Santonio Holmes hurting and whining most of the time, Jets fans have watched no-names like Greg Salas, Bilal Powell, Chaz Schillens (spelling), and Clyde Gates get regular snaps. Even Tom Brady has struggled this year with a no-name cast. You need to surround a young QB with reliable receivers; the Jets didn’t do that for Sanchez previous two seasons and they’re not doing it for Smith.

Another huge problem with the Jets’ offense is the o-line. Since Damien Woody and Brandon Moore retired, it’s gotten worse every year. Heck, even All-Pros Nick Mangold and D’Brickashaw (spelling) Ferguson have declined. You might say it’s on the QB to make the right decisions and fast, but how often has anyone under center got brought to the ground as soon as they snapped the ball? (cite sack stats as well as QB pressure numbers)

Perhaps the biggest issue the Jets’ have on offense is the coaching. The playcalling by Rex Ryan and Marty Mornhinweg in the last few games has been abysmal. They’ve been a run-first team of course, but they’ve completely abandoned the pass. It’s not like Geno can’t throw it, in fact he has a very good arm, but they have not taken advantage of it.

Yes, the Jets’ recent struggles can be attributed to the struggles of the rookie QB, but to simply blame it all on him would be completely irresponsible. To ignore the elephant in the room would not be seeing the whole picture.

NFL Picks: Week Thirteen

Last Week: 8-5-1

On the Season: 99-76-1

Thursday’s Games: Had @DET over GB, @DAL over OAK, and @BAL over PIT. All won

1:00PM Games

@ Cleveland over Jacksonville (CLE by 7, UNDER)

@ Indianapolis over Tennessee (IND by 4, OVER)

Chicago over @ Minnesota (MIN by 1)

@ NY Jets over Miami (NYJ by 2)

Arizona over @ Philadelphia (PHI by 3)

@ Carolina over Tampa Bay (CAR by 7, OVER)

New England over @ Houston (NE by 7, OVER)

Later Games:

Atlanta over @ Buffalo (BUF by 4, UPSET) [Game in Toronto]

St. Louis over @ San Francisco (SF by 8, UPSET)

Denver over @ Kansas City (DEN by 6, OVER)

@ San Diego over Cincinnati (SD by 1)

NY Giants over @ Washington (WSH by 1)

@ Seattle over New Orleans (SEA by 5, UNDER)