Last year it was the Yankees cutting ARod with $21M+ left on his contract. This week the Red Sox DFA's Pablo Sandoval with 3 years and $42M left on his contract. With those moves the handwriting could be on the wall for Jacoby Ellsbury.
If the Yankees can't miraculously move Ellsbury by the trade deadline or winter meetings they should seriously consider designating him for assignment and eating the remaining contract. With Frazier, Hicks, and hopefully a healthy Fowler next season to go along with Gardner and Judge there's simply no place for Ellsbury on the roster.
It's noit that Ellsbury is a truly terrible player like the one that Sandoval has been over the last two years, but he is just above replacement level in terms of WAR and his OPS+ has been in the 80's for the third straight season. The Yankees have better options than that. Put it this way - if Ellsbury was making $4M a year he probably would not be on the roster if Hicks or Fowler were healthy. The only thing keeping Jacoby Ellsbury on the roster is his contract.
Unfortunately, with Hicks and Fowler on the disabled list right now Ellsbury serves as an experienced warm body in the outfield. While players like Wade and Refsnyder can play outfield they haven't shown the ability to hit MLB pitching even at the Ellsbury level. McKinney is an interesting option but at this point in his MLB hitting skills probably fare as well as Refsnyder and Wade.
In the meantime with the Yankees in a spiral and Hicks on the DL it's the perfect time to make Frazier a starter and relegate Ellsbury to the bench. If the Yankees are unwilling to make Frazier a starter the least they could do is send him back to Scranton where he can get regular at bats. But that means another 40 man roster move, makes Ellsbury a starter for now, and probably means Mason Williams becomes the fourth outfielder until his next DFA.
Ultimately, the best move for the Yankees is that by spring training 2018 Ellsbury is gone one way or another. Then the Yankees could carry five outfielders with Gardner, Hicks, Judge, Frazier, and Fowler and rotate position players in the DH spot to give them at bats and keep them fresh during the season.
With all of the talent in the Yankee organization Ellsbury is simply blocking players and taking up space. The guys behind him should have no problem achieving at least the same level of production that Ellsbury has shown and they have higher upside. The precedent for eating big contracts has been set. It's time for the Yankees to seriously consider making that same move with Ellsbury.
P.S. How many read the title of this post and thought it would be advocating signing Sandoval to replace Headley?