By Jeff Louderback
Jacoby Ellsbury, who was limited to 74 games last season after suffering a dislocated shoulder in April, avoided arbitration and agreed to a one-year, $9 million contract with the Boston Red Sox.
The 29-year-old Ellsbury – who was American League MVP runner-up to Detroit’s Justin Verlander in 2011 when he batted .321/.376/.552/.928 with 32 home runs, 105 RBI and 39 stolen bases – had a slash line of .271/.313/.370/.682 with four home runs, 26 RBI and 14 stolen bases in 323 plate appearances in 2012. He was paid $8,050,000 last year.
Ellsbury is eligible for free agency after the 2013 season, and since he is represented by Scott Boras and will require an expensive long-term deal, the Red Sox will likely offer the first round pick (23rd overall) in 2005 out of Oregon State University a qualifying offer (which Ellsbury will undoubtedly decline) and take the draft pick compensation when he signs elsewhere.
Top prospect Jackie Bradley, a supplemental first rounder (40th overall) from the University of South Carolina in 2011, is projected to be Major League ready next season. Bradley is considered a better defensive center fielder than Ellsbury, hits for average and is capable of leading off.