By Ross Newhan
It would be natural to brand the New York Yankees' signing of Jacoby Ellsbury as "Johnny Damon 2.0" if it wasn't even bigger than simply another Boston center fielder moving to the Bronx, to the once (and future?) Evil Empire.
On a torrid and relentless Tuesday that found twitter junkies having a difficult time keeping up and which saw Oakland's Billy Beane and Detroit's Dave Dombrowski continuing to stoke a blazing Hot Stove (with the winter meetings still several days away), the Yankees delivered the capstone-- temporary as it is in a winter market that closed only briefly over the holiday.
In this case, if Red Sox Nation was becoming adjusted to the liklihood that agent Scott Boras would take 30 year old Ellsbury elsewhere, the seven year, $153 million agreement with the dreaded Yankees still had to represent a dagger coming eight years after Damon, then 32, left for New York and a four year, $52 million contact.
Ellsbury, after all, had been the leadoff trigger in a Boston resurgence culminated by the World Series victory over St. Louis. He batted .298, stole a league leading 52 bases and now becomes the cornerstone of an outfield rebuilding project that still finds the Yankees--determined as they are to stay under the $189 million luxury tax threshold and having already committed $85 million over five years to catcher Brian McCann--with enough financial resources and flexibility to pursue Shin Soo Choo and/or Carlos Beltran while also attempting to retain second baseman Robinson Cano.
The Yankees and Cano are anywhere from $80 million to $100 million apart, and if anyone really believes the rumors about Jay-Z taking his clint to Seattle--well, anything may be possible in this inflationary and non-stop market--but that one would be too much for even the imaginative Boras and his use of a "mystery team" negotiating tool to try and sell.