Baltimore Orioles: Would a Jacoby Ellsbury Trade Make Sense?

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 13: Jacoby Ellsbury
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 13: Jacoby Ellsbury /

The Baltimore Orioles are in need of an outfielder, and while trades within the division don’t happen often, acquiring Jacoby Ellsbury from the New York Yankees makes sense.

The Baltimore Orioles are in need of an outfielder, and while trades within the division don’t necessarily happen all that often, acquiring Jacoby Ellsbury from the New York Yankees makes sense.

Before you get all excited, yes, the Baltimore Orioles’ biggest need this offseason is starting pitching, without a doubt. However, they’re also in need of an outfielder. Currently, they have just Adam Jones and Trey Mancini, with rookie Austin Hays and a mix of Joey Rickard and Anthony Santander likely competing for the last spot.

The Orioles’ interest in potential free agent outfielders has been well-documented, with noted interest in Jarrod Dyson, Carlos Gonzalez, Nori Aoki, and Melky Cabrera.

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But another player that the Baltimore Orioles are reportedly interested in is Ellsbury, according to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. According to Heyman, Ellsbury believes he may have a shot at a starting job in the outfield alongside Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge, but the Yankees reportedly favor Aaron Hicks instead.

If that’s the case, Ellsbury is the odd man out, and a trade might be feasible. Enter the Baltimore Orioles, who are in need of not only an outfielder, but a player with speed who doesn’t strikeout much. That’s exactly what Ellsbury brings to the table.

At 34-years-old, Ellsbury isn’t the speed demon he once was, the man who stole 70 bases in 2009 with the Boston Red Sox. But he still has good speed, stealing 22 bases last year (10 fewer than the Orioles stole as a team).

Last year, along with those 22 steals, Ellsbury slashed .264/.348/.402 with seven home runs, 65 runs, and 39 RBIs in 112 games. While a .264 average isn’t necessarily anything special, a .348 OBP is something the Orioles could use.

Ellsbury isn’t a liability in the field either. While he had -3 defensive runs saved in 2017, he had +8 and +3 defensive runs saved in 2016 and 2015 respectively, so he can still play in the outfield. The question is, where would he play?

Ellsbury hasn’t played outside of center field since 2010, and before that, he logged a fair number of innings in both right field and left field. Currently, Jones is slated to be the Baltimore Orioles’ center fielder, but he struggled defensively last season.

In 2017, Jones had -12 defensive runs saved in center field along with a miserable -11.1 defensive rating, the latter of which is a career-worst for him. That -12 defensive runs saved was eighth-worst in the major leagues last year, and his -11.1 defensive rating was good for 11th-worst in the majors and worst among center fielders.

Now, Jones hasn’t played outside centerfield since 2007 with the Seattle Mariners, so moving him to corner outfield would be an adjustment, but given how bad he was last year, could he be any worse? And would you rather have bad defense in center field or in the corner outfield? I’d personally take the latter.

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We’ll see what the Baltimore Orioles end up doing, it seems likely that they’ll sign an outfielder out of free agency, Heyman also reported that specifically the Orioles were still interested in CarGo, but if the asking price isn’t too high, trading for Jacoby Ellsbury could make a lot of sense.