Jacoby Ellsbury joins New York Yankees

Bob Nightengale
Jacoby Ellsbury has a career .431 slugging percentage at the new Yankee Stadium.
  • Ellsbury reached a tentative agreement with the Yankees
  • Ellsbury agreed on a seven-year contract worth %24153 million
  • Ellsbury spent seven years in Boston

The New York Yankees, after bluffing that they would slash their payroll this winter, exposed their hand to the baseball world Tuesday night.

Yep, the Yankees are back to being the old Yankees.

Budgets be damned.

The Yankees reached a tentative agreement Tuesday night with prized free agent center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury on a seven-year contract for $153 million, a person with direct knowledge of the negotiations told USA TODAY Sports. The person was unauthorized to speak publicly because the deal had not been announced by the Yankees.

The Yankees, who have spent much of the year discussing plans to lower their payroll below the $189 million luxury-tax figure in 2014, have now dropped $238 million in the free agent market with Ellsbury and catcher Brian McCann, whose five-year, $85 million contract was officially announced earlier in the day.

And, yes, a Yankees official intimated Tuesday night, they still badly would like to re-sign second baseman Robinson Cano. The Yankees have already offered Cano a seven-year, $160 million contract, but Cano is seeking at least $90 million more in his recent talks.

The Yankees already have a payroll of about $138 million for luxury-tax purposes, and that's for only 10 players. Then again, that counts Alex Rodriguez's $27.5 million salary, which would come off the books if arbitrator Fred Horowitz upholds Rodriguez' 211-game suspension through at least the 2014 season.

But, hey, it's just money, right?

The Yankees, who missed the playoffs for only the second time in 19 years this past season, are making sure there's no repeat in 2014, no matter the financial consequences.

The Yankees, who will pay a record $29.1 million luxury-tax penalty for their $236 million payroll in 2013, according to salary figures obtained by USA TODAY Sports, actually reiterated their desire to lower their payroll just three weeks ago.

"That's the goal," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told USA TODAY Sports at the GM meetings. "The main reason is instead of giving all of the money to the 29 other owners that are receiving that benefit, we would rather have our fan base receive it by putting it back into our franchise rather than giving to other competitors' pockets."


The Yankees built a dynasty when they never cared about something so frivolous as a budget. Now, on the heels of an injury-plagued, playoff-less 85-win season, they're making sure they're again the bullies of the neighborhood.

They're still involved in virtually every marquee free agent and still want to add three more starting pitchers, including Japanese star pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.

Already in the fold: McCann and now Ellsbury, who made one All-Star team, in 2011, the same season he finished second in American League Most Valuable Player voting.

The following year, injuries limited him to 74 games before he rebounded this year, batting .298 in 134 games and stealing 52 bases, the third season he led the AL in that category. He's a career .297 hitter with a .350 on-base percentage.

Ellsbury's signing shows they're resurrecting the fury they unloaded on the rest of baseball when they failed to make the playoffs in 2008. They dropped $423 million on the 2008 winter free agent market for starters CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett and first baseman Mark Teixeira.

Ten months later, they were having a World Series parade in lower Manhattan.

Apparently, they're intent on having another parade in 11 months.

"Ultimately, making the playoffs and not making the playoffs," Cashman told USA TODAY Sports in November, "is less important as much as trying to win a World Series. You're either good enough or you're not. Last year, we weren't good enough.

"We've got to find ways to get to the point where we are good enough, no matter how long it takes."

Patience has never been a strong suit in the Bronx.

By lavishing the third-largest contract on an outfielder in baseball history, they're showing that again.

The Yankees, who watched their TV ratings and attendance plummet last year, are back in the business of star power.

They not only brought in perhaps the best leadoff hitter in baseball, but stole Ellsbury from their hated rivals in Boston, just like in 2006 when they took Johnny Damon from the Red Sox two years after Boston's first World Series title in 86 years.

Déjà vu, all over again.

The captivating subplot in all of this is powerful agent Scott Boras. He represents Ellsbury, just like he did Damon.

He also happened to be Cano's agent before Cano dumped him this year for entertainer Jay Z.

With Ellsbury in the fold, guess whose leverage took a huge hit?

The Yankees might have won the sweepstakes, and Boras might have just gotten the last laugh.

The Yankees, who watched their TV ratings and attendance plummet last year, are back in the business of star power.