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At $153 Million, Jacoby Ellsbury Has Been New York's Best Expenditure

By Andrew Perna

The New York Yankees are often fiscally irresponsible with a penchant for signing older stars to expensive, long-term deals. That has been one of the few constants over the last two decades as pitchers have returned to dominance, prospects have risen in value and the implementation of drug-testing has altered the game of baseball.

So it didn't surprise anyone when the Yankees spent more than $500 million on free agents this past offseason after sitting out the playoffs with an 85-77 record. They finished 12 games back of the rival Boston Red Sox in the American League East and more than six games back of a Wild Card spot. However, after spending half a billion dollars, New York is on pace for fewer wins (84) and a playoff-less end to Derek Jeter's career.

Health has certainly been an issue, but almost every Major League team has to deal with a significant injuries. It just so happens that New York's injured players are among the highest-paid in baseball. CC Sabathia ($23 million) has only logged 46 innings and Ivan Nova ($3.3 million) has been limited to fewer than 21 frames. Masahiro Tanaka ($22 million) hasn't pitched since July 8 because of troublesome elbow issues.

The offense has been healthy, but not much more productive.

Brian McCann, signed away from the Atlanta Braves for $85 million over five years, is having the worst offensive season of his career. In his age-30 season, the catcher is hitting .234/.287/.384. He hasn't hit for average for several seasons, but owns a career .809 OPS.

Carlos Beltran, who landed a three-year, $45 million contract, is seven years older than McCann and a perfect example of the stereotypical New York signing. He has a disappointing slash line of .240/.303/.420 in 412 plate appearances. He is putting together the worst season of his 17-year career, by far. Age was an obvious concern, but Beltran hit .296/.339/.491 with 24 home runs for the St. Louis Cardinals just last season.

While the contract was more ceremonial than indicative of his true value, the Yankees are paying Jeter $12 million on a one-year pact in his final season. He has remained healthy, which was a significant question mark at 40, but is having the worst full season of his career (sensing a theme?) with a .261/.308/.312 line.

Thanks to the struggles of McCann, Beltran and Jeter, three of Joe Girardi's key offensive pieces are getting on base less than a third of the time. It's surprising the Yankees (.695) don't rank lower than 18th in team OPS.

When looking at the money Brian Cashman spent this past offseason, the most exorbitant contract handed out was the seven-year, $153 million deal given to Jacoby Ellsbury in both the length and cost. The speedy outfielder came to New York with a history of inconsistency and health issues. He played in just 250 games between 2010-12 and his oWAR in the five seasons before leaving the Red Sox were 3.2, -0.3, 7.4, 0.8 and 4.1.

Would he become complacent? Was he due for a poor season? Would be play in enough games to provide a return on New York's investment?

All those concerns have been tabled for now as Ellsbury has been not only the Yankees' best hitter, but also most valuable player overall. Brett Gardner has accumulated more WAR (4.3 to 3.5) than his new outfield partner, but Ellsbury has done more to jumpstart an anemic offense.

Ellsbury leads the club in batting average (.288), on-base percentage (.348) and trails only Gardner in slugging (.435, by a mere eight percentage points). It goes to show you how badly the Yankees have struggled to score runs when you see Gardner and Ellsbury leading them in power.

For the first time since winning the AL Rookie of the Year award in 2008 and following it up with another strong season in 2009, Ellsbury, who will turn 31 next week, has put together consecutive above-average seasons. That's good news for the Yankees, who have $166 million already committed to next year's roster.

When you remove Ellsbury's $21 million from that total, it will cost New York $143 million to employ Alex Rodriguez, Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Tanaka, McCann, Gardner, Beltran and Martin Prado. That's barely a third of a Major League roster.

Where would they be without their center fielder?


MLB Rankings For The Week Beginning September 2

By RealGM Staff Report

The Opsera is a statistic RealGM Executive Editor Chris Reina created in order to objectively rank teams by how well they hit (OPS) and pitch (ERA). 

In order to determine the Opsera rating for each, we take their OPS, multiply that number by 10 to move the decimal point over one place to the right and then subtract their ERA from that number.  

All statistics are through Monday, September 1.

Rankings from last week are in parenthesizes.

1. (1) Washington Nationals – 4.01

The Nationals have a seven-game lead in the National League East as the possibility of a Beltway World Series looms.

2. (2) Oakland Athletics – 3.89

Oakland crumbled against Los Angeles over the weekend, casting doubt over their championship hopes. If they don't regroup quickly, the playoffs may go on without them.

3. (4) Los Angeles Dodgers – 3.88

Clayton Kershaw's 1.73 ERA is more than a half-run better than the next-best in the National League (Johnny Cueto, 2.26).

4. (5) Los Angeles Angels – 3.79

The Angels are hot at the right time and Mike Trout's career-best power numbers are to thank. The 23-year-old has 31 home runs and 97 RBIs with a month to play.

5. (6) Baltimore Orioles – 3.74

The Orioles aren't leading the American League East simply because the competition has been weak. They'd have the NL's best record.

6. (3) Seattle Mariners – 3.72

7. (13) San Francisco Giants – 3.62

8. (T9) Pittsburgh Pirates – 3.60

9. (12) Detroit Tigers – 3.55

10. (T9) Atlanta Braves – 3.54

11. (T9) Cleveland Indians – 3.50

12. (7) Milwaukee Brewers – 3.45

13. (8) Tampa Bay Rays – 3.44

14. (14) Kansas City Royals – 3.36

15. (15) St. Louis Cardinals – 3.32

16. (16) Toronto Blue Jays – 3.27

T17. (T17) Cincinnati Reds – 3.17

-- (T17) San Diego Padres – 3.17

19. (19) Miami Marlins – 3.16

20. (22) New York Yankees – 3.13

21. (20) Chicago Cubs – 3.11

22. (21) New York Mets – 3.02

23. (26) Philadelphia Phillies – 2.89

24. (23) Boston Red Sox – 2.86

25. (25) Chicago White Sox – 2.78

26. (24) Colorado Rockies – 2.76

27. (27) Arizona Diamondbacks – 2.68

28. (29) Houston Astros – 2.63

29. (28) Minnesota Twins – 2.55

30. (30) Texas Rangers – 2.19

 

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MLB Rankings For The Week Beginning August 25

By RealGM Staff Report

The Opsera is a statistic RealGM Executive Editor Chris Reina created in order to objectively rank teams by how well they hit (OPS) and pitch (ERA). 

In order to determine the Opsera rating for each, we take their OPS, multiply that number by 10 to move the decimal point over one place to the right and then subtract their ERA from that number.  

All statistics are through Sunday, August 24.

Rankings from last week are in parenthesizes.

1. (3) Washington Nationals – 4.00

For the first time since early in the season, the Athletics aren't at the top of our rankings. Washington has won nine of their last 10 games and have a 99.4% chance of making the playoffs.

2. (1) Oakland Athletics – 3.95

The mighty A's are scuffling. Losers of seven of their last 10 games, they've been surpassed by the Los Angeles Angels in the American League West.

3. (4) Seattle Mariners – 3.85

Seattle is going to have to settle for a Wild Card and they received a scare on Sunday when Robinson Cano left with dizziness.

4. (2) Los Angeles Dodgers – 3.83

L.A. has the second-best record in the National League, but no have less than a five-game lead over the Giants in the NL West.

5. (5) Los Angeles Angels – 3.74

The Angels have been patient and while everyone talked about the Athletics, they remained within striking distance. The AL West title would be theirs if the season ended today.

6. (6) Baltimore Orioles – 3.63

7. (T8) Milwaukee Brewers – 3.60

8. (11) Tampa Bay Rays – 3.55

T9. (T8) Pittsburgh Pirates – 3.51

-- (T12) Atlanta Braves – 3.51

-- (15) Cleveland Indians – 3.51

12. (7) Detroit Tigers – 3.47

13. (14) San Francisco Giants – 3.43

14. (16) Kansas City Royals – 3.39

15. (17) St. Louis Cardinals – 3.31

16. (10) Toronto Blue Jays – 3.25

T17. (T12) Cincinnati Reds – 3.18

-- (18) San Diego Padres – 3.18

19. (21) Miami Marlins – 3.17

20. (22) Chicago Cubs – 3.10

21. (20) New York Mets – 3.08

22. (19) New York Yankees – 3.07

23. (23) Boston Red Sox – 2.89

24. (25) Colorado Rockies – 2.79

25. (24) Chicago White Sox – 2.76

26. (26) Philadelphia Phillies – 2.73

27. (27) Arizona Diamondbacks – 2.67

28. (28) Minnesota Twins – 2.64

29. (29) Houston Astros – 2.61

30. (30) Texas Rangers – 2.18

 

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MLB Rankings For The Week Beginning August 11

The Mariners, in a battle for a Wild Card berth with 45 games to play, have surged to fourth in our rankings behind the A's, Dodgers and Nationals.


Grading The Deal: Tigers Land Price From Rays, Mariners Get Involved

The Tigers added an ace to their rotation and the Mariners upgraded their outfield as the Rays parted with David Price. Did they wait too long, or not long enough?


Grading The Deal: Red Sox Send Lackey To Cardinals For Craig, Kelly

The Red Sox receive two proven Major League contributors for John Lackey, who could pitch in St. Louis for just $500,000 next season.


Grading The Deal: Red Sox, A's Complete Blockbuster Trade

Already one of the favorites to win the World Series, the A's now have an even deeper playoff rotation. Meanwhile, the Red Sox have added to a punch-less outfield while landing a top pick as well.


Grading The Deal: Cardinals Get Masterson From Indians

The Indians didn't have any reason to keep Justin Masterson, while the Cardinals needed to fortify the back end of their starting rotation.


MLB Rankings For The Week Beginning July 28

The Athletics still have the best record in baseball and top spot on our rankings, followed by the Nationals, Dodgers, Angels and Tigers.