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Yankees sign Jacoby Ellsbury: What does it mean for the 2014 outfield?

Now that the they have signed Jacoby Ellsbury, what will the 2014 Yankees outfield look like?


The Yankees have signed Jacoby Ellsbury to a whopping $153 million and now there is a lot that needs to be done to make everyone fit perfectly into the 2014 outfield. While they already have Brett Gardner, Alfonso Soriano, Ichiro Suzuki, and Vernon Wells, it was clear that they still needed to add someone, whether that was Carlos Beltran, Shin-Soo Choo, or Ellsbury. But now that the deal is done, who stays and who goes?

The obvious one to go would be Brett Gardner, since he would have the most trade value. He and Ellsbury are very similar players, so it would make sense to try and trade for pitching with a package centered around Gardner. However, it seems the Yankees instead plan to play Gardner in left field and Ellsbury in center field, at least for now. Having two elite outfielders on the same field will give the Yankees a lot of leeway when it comes to pitching to contact. Almost anything hit to left and center are catchable now.

This obviously means that Soriano will be displaced from his spot in left field. While his bat was helpful in 2013, his defense has been a mixed bag, so moving Gardner to left field will improve the team's defensive strength. It's possible that they could then move Soriano to right field in order to keep their three best outfield bats in the starting lineup. While Ellsbury might not be a power hitter, Soriano is, so keeping him in the lineup could be essential to the Yankees' offensive power in 2014. They already went through a season of diminished home runs, they likely don't want to keep Soriano benched if it means they suffer through another power outage.

It's entirely possible that Ichiro Suzuki, one of the worst position players in baseball last year, could be relegated to a fourth outfielder for the 2014 season. He was absolutely terrible with the bat, but at least his glove held some value, so bringing him in toward the end of the game to replace Soriano would be helpful. The Yankees are stuck paying him $7 million in 2014, so they might as well use him if they aren't adding any more outfielders. Ichiro will likely get starts in the outfield when Soriano is the designated hitter, but that might not happen often, since it weakens the lineup.

Adding Ellsbury could spell the end for Vernon Wells on the Yankees. They only owe him $2.5 million in 2014, so he has always been easily cuttable if they added someone. Getting rid of him only made sense if they signed a significantly better player to a significantly larger contract, since the cost of the new player would be his salary plus Wells'. Ellsbury will make so much that $2.5 million will cost practically nothing. It's always possible they could keep him as a fifth outfielder, especially since they will still need someone off the bench to hit against lefties.

With three elite defensive outfielders on the team now, it likely means they won't need a fifth outfielder, at least to begin the year, so Wells should be gone. Right now the starting outfield would be Gardner in left, Ellsbury in center, and some combination of Soriano/Ichiro in right (though Ichiro could play anywhere). Still, anything could happen, it's possible if the Yankees can't sign Robinson Cano, they could still go after Choo or even Beltran.