It might seem as if the Yankees should do anything to remove Jacoby Ellsbury from the roster, so when another club poses even the least bit of interest in his services, strong consideration must be given by New York.
According to ESPN's Buster Olney, the Giants have held internal discussions about Ellsbury and the club's potential opening in center field. Olney suggests the old "bad contract for bad contract" swap, which is sometimes effective for both clubs. Olney goes on to list several Giants players that at least match up closely in the salary department with Ellsbury's remaining $47-plus million.
What are the pros and cons to the Yankees waving the white flag and pulling the trigger in a deal for Ellsbury?
Why dealing Ellsbury makes sense
The Yankees are knee deep in outfielders and Ellsbury sits last on the depth chart at the major league level. Assuming he is healthy enough to play, the Yankees would be hard-pressed to find time for Ellsbury to take the field. With Ellsbury set to earn over $21 million in 2019, that's an awful lot of payroll funds attributed to a bench player.
Even if Ellsbury was able to play due to a teammate's injury, it remains to be seen how effective he would be considering the ample loss of time in recent seasons. Would the Yankees sacrifice better options like Clint Frazier simply because they are on the hook for Ellsbury? If the Yankees did go that route, how long would they wait for Ellsbury to produce?
While Ellsbury helps the Yankees best by being off the roster, the question remains, at what cost?
Why the potential returns do not fit
Brandon Belt: Are the Yankees convinced that Greg Bird or Luke Voit (or both in a platoon setting) will be sufficient at first base? Bird has an injury history as long as Voit's minor league resume, so there are no assurances with either player. Belt, who is owed $51.6 million, has missed 108 games over the past two seasons, which should bring some caution despite above average offensive numbers (115 OPS+ in 2018). The cost basis for Belt's production when the club would be paying far less for both Bird and Voit combined with greater upside makes little sense.
Johnny Cueto: Cueto is owed approximately $70 over the next three seasons, but the Yankees could collect some insurance on the right-hander, who is out for much of 2019 as he recuperates from Tommy John surgery. Cueto could provide the Yankees with some rotation depth at the end of the season and through 2021. However, without knowing Cueto's ability to come back strong at 34 years old, he could become a significant impediment to the roster configuration.
Evan Longoria: Longoria is owed about $60 million over the next four years, so the roster crunch would go much deeper in terms of time than Ellsbury. If the Yankees are uninterested in adding Manny Machado, falling back on AL Rookie of the Year award runner-up Miguel Andujar makes a lot more sense at third base than going anywhere near Longoria.
Jeff Samardzija: Yes, the Yankees are reportedly seeking rotation depth and Samardzija fits the flyer-type in that department. Samardzija has potential injury issues of his own (he made just 10 starts in 2018) and his production was lackluster when he took the mound. At 34 years old, the Yankees would be better off using one of several internal and younger candidates or making a minimal commitment to a pitcher on a minor league deal, rather than take on Samardzija.
The Yankees would clearly be better off with Ellsbury removed from the roster, but the premise of taking on a similar bad contract is not always more appealing. That appears to be the case with the players from the Giants side of any potential trade. The Yankees may eventually realize they are better off releasing Ellsbury and dealing with the cash ramifications only, versus adding back another roster imperfection.