Jacoby Ellsbury has been compared to Johnny Damon throughout his career for obvious reasons, and now he’s replicating Damon’s career path by leaving the Boston Red Sox to sign a big free agent contract with the New York Yankees.
Ellsbury and the Yankees agreed on a 7-year, $156 million deal Tuesday that includes an option for an eighth year. The option would bring the total value of the contract to $169 million.
Ellsbury has led the league in stolen bases three times, nearly won AL MVP in 2011, and he has a .789 career OPS, which is pretty darn good for a center fielder. He and Damon are similar players — they’re both lefties, somewhat on the smaller side, and they both have power and speed. Damon probably had more power, while Ellsbury probably has more speed.
Ellsbury was drafted by the Red Sox in 2005, made his debut in 2007, won two World Series with Boston, and now he’s going to the Bronx. Damon played for the Red Sox from 2002-2005, won a World Series with them and then signed a 4-year, $52 million deal with the Yankees. Ellsbury was drafted by the Sox in Damon’s last year with the team.
The parallels between the two are pretty incredible, so who better to comment on the signing than Damon? MLB.com writer Ian Browne spoke with Damon to get his thoughts on the deal.
“Jacoby has always been compared to me, in a way, since he was signed. So this is just that other comparison. I wish him the best and, yeah, it’s pretty crazy,” Damon told Browne.
Damon thinks Yankee Stadium will work well for Ellsbury’s left-handed swing, and he also thinks the signing makes the Yankees contenders again in the AL. Damon also was asked to compare Yankees and Red Sox fans. He told Browne that he felt New York was easier to deal with than Boston because Yankees fans are less consumed with their baseball team than Red Sox fans. And what kind of reception will Ellsbury receive from Boston?
Damon believes Red Sox fans will be harsh on Ellsbury, but he thinks it helps that Ellsbury just won a World Series with the team and that he plays the game the way Sox fans like.
“Yeah, it’s going to be tough at times but he’s a good enough player that the fans are still going to respect what he gave to Boston and what he’s going to give to New York,” Damon told Browne.
If Ellsbury was able to succeed in a difficult city like Boston, he should do fine in New York. He’s familiar with the media coverage, pressure, and intensity of playing for a big-market team. The Yankees just have to hope he stays healthy so that their investment pays off.