Well, I can’t say I saw this coming. I think we all expected the Jacoby Ellsbury era to end with a whimper after the Yankees cut him several days ago, but that was not to be. We’re going to be hearing a lot more about Ellsbury in the coming weeks. That’s about the only thing we know for sure right now.
Anyway, according to Jon Heyman, the Yankees do not plan to pay Jacoby for 2020:
This builds off a New York Post report I mentioned in today’s mailbag. George King reported that the team was filing a grievance over the remaining sum owed to Ellsbury ($26 million). Evidently, he violated the terms of his deal by rehabbing at an off-site facility.
A new report from the New York Daily News reveals that the Yankees were “were tipped off that Ellsbury had been receiving treatment at the Progressive Medical Center in Atlanta, headed up by a controversial physician named Viktor Bouquette.” The paper goes into some detail about those controversies. Complicating the story: there seems to be a PED element as well, and MLB is investigating.
This is all very interesting, to say the least. A few immediate thoughts:
1) While I initially found it interesting that this news came right after we learned Ellsbury’s contract is not insured for 2020, that link is now tenuous at best. Per the NYDN, the Yankees learned about this a few months ago and alerted MLB, which then took action. Nothing to do with insurance aside from timing.
2) This is a very aggressive tactic by the Yankees. I mean, outright refusing to pay Ellsbury to spur action from him and his camp (Scott Boras is his agent) certainly feels much different than simply filing a grievance over a contract violation. I’m not really sure why, but the optics are different.
3) It seems like the Yankees want to recoup money dating back to 2017, which will come close to $70 million in total, a significant amount of money. That’s when Ellsbury started seeing the controversial doctor for rehab. This could get very ugly very fast.
4) NBC’s Craig Calcaterra has a healthy dose of skepticism for the circumstances. He notes that information about the doctor’s controversial past is vague and seemingly disconnected from the Ellsbury case. I think his perspective is fair, and I agree with it. There’s more to this than meets the eye. I can only assume we’ll learn more soon.
5) We really, really don’t have a lot of information here. The Yankees may very well have a clear-cut case against Ellsbury. They very well might be relying on vague, confusing contract language here. Ellsbury might have a legitimate case, too. At this point, we really don’t know. It’s easy to rush to judgement in these situations based on your preconceived notions. It is important not to do so.
6) Now, with that said, I’m having a hard time divorcing this from the broader climate throughout the league. Tensions are very high right now between the MLB Player’s Association and ownership. Players are angry about the state of free agency and have been vocal about it. Moreover, Calcaterra reported the other day that Manfred is already drawing a hard line in the sand with the MLBPA, saying that there will be no economic concessions for labor peace. He then added on Twitter that folks he’d spoken to “took that as a signal” that the league would “seek the elimination of guaranteed contracts.” Now, just a few days later, we get this news about a team trying to contest money guaranteed to Ellsbury. We don’t have nearly enough information to reach any conclusions at all, but it’s easy to be skeptical here.
7) Finally, zooming back in to the Yankees specifically, this entire Ellsbury situation has been so weird for years now. His injuries were very vague. It was always weird when it was reported that he was working out off-site. This is a saga that needs a real, in-depth reported piece. Unfortunately, I still think we’re years away from that. There is a ton of gray area to all of this, and there’s a lot–and I mean A LOT–that we don’t know.
Anyway, as I said, there is a lot more to come. The Yankees may very well have an iron-clad case here. I mean, they’re certainly acting like it. It’s also worth remembering that we don’t yet have Ellsbury and Boras’ perspective yet, which will only further muddy these waters. As always, we’ll keep you posted as things develop.
Buckle up, folks. This is going to be a wild ride.