Brief thoughts on the trade idea floated today by ESPN’s Buster Olney:
In theory this makes sense. The Yankees have little use for OF Jacoby Ellsbury or his car-crash of a contract (two years, $42M). The Giants probably aren’t thrilled about SP Johnny Cueto and his contract (three years, $68M).
Ellsbury missed all of 2018 with an assortment of “injuries” best construed as “look, we’re good now and can’t afford to let you give away outs anymore.” He hasn’t cracked 2 fWAR since 2014. Cueto struggled through 53 innings (4.52 xFIP) before undergoing Tommy John surgery in August. It’s unlikely he’d be available at all in 2019. Unlike Ellsbury, he was pretty good as recently as 2016.
Again, if we dabble in theory, maybe a swap makes sense. The Giants have serious need of warm bodies in the outfield, and hey, Ellsbury can definitely (maybe) throw on a cap and grab a glove and trot out there. He probably can’t be productive after so many injuries and so much decline, but he’s available.
And for the Yankees, well, everyone needs pitching, right?. The thing is, Cueto’s north of 30, injury prone and already on the decline before blowing out his arm. Perhaps once healthy he could slide into CC Sabathia’s rotation spot, but even that might be up in the air. His HR/FB rate climbed in 2017 to 14% and stayed there in 2018 — above the league average. The velocity and strikeouts have been on the decline, too. That doesn’t play well in Yankee Stadium.
If the Giants were willing to do something to balance out the salary difference, this isn’t necessarily an awful idea. But let’s be real here, it’s unlikely either player is a significant part of a contender going forward. Odds are Ellsbury is essentially replacement level and Cueto’s declining years would look a lot prettier in a more forgiving division and ballpark than the Yankees can offer.
Perhaps both teams are better off just swallowing hard and stomaching their respective bad contracts.