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Top Boston Sports Stories of 2013, No. 9: Jacoby Ellsbury leaves Red Sox to sign with Yankees

12.24.13 at 9:14 am ET
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Over the final days of the year, WEEI.com will count down the top 13 stories of 2013 in Boston sports. This is No. 9: Jacoby Ellsbury leaves Red Sox to sign with Yankees. To see the previous entries, click here.

Jacoby Ellsbury finished second in the American League MVP balloting in 2011. (AP)

Jacoby Ellsbury hit the jackpot when he signed a seven-year, $153 million deal with the Yankees. (AP)

Just over a month after picking up his second World Series ring with the Red Sox, Jacoby Ellsbury swapped out the uniform he has worn since 2007 for a set of pinstripes.

The center fielder, whom the Red Sox picked up in the first round of the 2005 draft, became the 14th-highest-paid player in baseball on Dec. 3 when he agreed to a seven-year, $153 million deal with the Yankees. Ellsbury’€™s agreement also included the option for an eighth season that would make his deal worth $169 million.

The Sox reportedly let Ellsbury know early on that they had no intention of coming close to his asking price or contract length.

“I’€™m excited to be a New York Yankee,’€ Ellsbury said during a press conference at Yankee Stadium on Dec. 13. ‘€œDefinitely very excited for my family and I. I know [my wife] Kelsey is excited to be here. You guys have treated me so great, all day. I’€™m very appreciative.

“I’€™m excited for this opportunity, coming to a storied franchise. Looking outside today, seeing the banners on the wall, seeing the great players that have played here, this is a truly honor. … It’€™s an honor and I’€™m excited to go out there. Can’€™t wait to get to spring training, get to work, meet my teammates. And hopefully when it’€™s all said and done, we can hoist that trophy above our head. With that being said, I’€™m excited to be here.”

In seven seasons with the Sox, Ellsbury had a .297/.350/.439 line. The leadoff hitter’€™s best year came in 2011 when he had career numbers for games played (158), RBIs (105), home runs (32) and OPS (.928).

During his final year with the Sox, Ellsbury led the league with 52 steals while putting up a .298/.355/.426 line with nine home runs and 53 RBIs. He went on to hit .344 during the playoffs.

According to Red Sox manager John Farrell, the players were ‘€œjolted’€ when they heard that Ellsbury had signed with the Yankees. Part of this shock was due to a move earlier on Dec. 3 when the Sox signed catcher A.J. Pierzynski, thus ensuring that Jarrod Saltalamacchia would leave the team.

“I did get a text message [Dec. 3] saying, hey, he’€™s heading in for a physical, it sounds like it’€™s done,’€ Farrell said on WEEI’€™s Salk & Holley on Dec. 4. ‘€œThen the news broke on the numbers and, my gosh, congratulations to Jacoby.

“€œWe’€™ll miss him. He’€™s a very good player, had a great run here, granted, missed some time because of some serious injuries he went through. But he played through a lot for us. The foot breaking. The left thumb that was in a lot of pain towards the end of the year. But you know what? He deserved the right to see what his market was, and obviously it’€™s a big one.”

The 30-year-old’€™s contract with the Yankees is similar to the agreement Carl Crawford signed with Boston in 2011. Crawford was given a seven-year, $142 million deal that now is considered one of the worst deals Boston has made.

After just 161 games in a Red Sox uniform, Crawford was part of a landmark trade during the 2012 season that also sent Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Nick Punto to the Dodgers.

With Ellsbury now occupying a spot in the Yankees outfield, Boston will need to find a replacement for the speedy leadoff hitter in center. While Farrell said during the winter meetings that he anticipates Daniel Nava and Shane Victorino will take over the leadoff responsibilities, general manager Ben Cherington has implied that Boston might not use its homegrown talent in Jackie Bradley Jr. to replace Ellsbury in the field.

“We certainly feel good about some of the in-house alternatives, and one of those guys was Jackie Bradley,’€ Cherington said. ‘€œIt doesn’€™t mean we wouldn’€™t add an outfielder. It doesn’€™t mean we wouldn’€™t add a player at another spot.”

Farrell said, however, that he sees Bradley as a good fit for the team.

“We have a center fielder in Jackie Bradley. ‘€¦ Personally, this is me speaking, this isn’€™t the organization speaking or [Cherington] speaking, [Bradley] fits as we continue to fill out the other areas on our club.”

On the day he was introduced by his former team’s rival, Ellsbury took out a full-page ad in the Boston Globe thanking fans for his time with the Sox. The advertisement, which featured a picture of Ellsbury lifting up the World Series trophy, stated:

“Red Sox Nation, Two world championships and seven years of great memories. To the fans of New England, teammates and the many friendships made. Thank you! Jacoby.”

Read More: Boston Sports Stories of the Year 2013, Carl Crawford, Jackie Bradley Jr., Jacoby Ellsbury Print  |  Email  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It