Jacoby Ellsbury is about halfway through the seven-year, $153 million contract he signed before the 2014 season, and he has lost his spot in the everyday lineup of the New York Yankees. This is why in the days leading up to the trade deadline and beyond, if necessary, it would make sense for the Yankees to explore ways to move the veteran outfielder, including a possible swap for another team's bad contract.
Ellsbury, who turns 34 in September, is batting .249 with a .324 on-base percentage, eight doubles and four homers in 224 plate appearances. The Yankees have a glut of outfielders now that Clint Frazier has established himself in a group that already includes MVP candidate Aaron Judge and Brett Gardner, with Aaron Hicks due back soon from the disabled list.
Under the terms of Ellsbury's deal, he is owed $21.2 million this year and for each of the next three years, with a buyout of $5 million on an option for 2021 -- a total of approximately $77 million. So the challenge for the Yankees could be in trying to identify clubs with expensive players in similar situations, and to find a landing spot for which Ellsbury would waive his no-trade clause. The Yankees' leverage is the lineup card: If Ellsbury wants to play regularly, he might need to go elsewhere.
What follows is a list of players among those who might fit into an Ellsbury trade with the Yankees -- and to be clear, the names below are rooted only in speculation:
Jeff Samardzija, San Francisco Giants: He has 5.05 ERA in 128⅓ innings this year, and is owed $59.4 million for the next three years. In theory, the Yankees could add a prospect and make the finances work for the Giants, in return for a fly ball pitcher who might struggle in Yankee Stadium but might be more functional on the roster than Ellsbury, who is without a spot right now.
Johnny Cueto, Giants: Cueto signed a six-year, $130 million deal before the 2016 season and can opt out of his deal after this year, but he has a 4.59 ERA in 19 starts -- and he and the Giants might be stuck with each other as a result. If San Francisco looked to shave some payroll obligations, it could make some sense for the Giants to take on the lesser Ellsbury deal.
Jordan Zimmermann, Detroit Tigers: He is 6-8 with a 5.81 ERA in 19 starts, and is owed about $81 million for the rest of this season and the next three years. The Yankees' level of interest might depend on how much more functional they envision Zimmermann would be on their roster.
Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins: Stanton is owed about $300 million through the 2027 season, a deal that makes him almost untradable. If Miami's ownership became desperate to unload some of its debt, the Yankees could ask that the Marlins take back Ellsbury and at least some of his salary under the terms of any deal.
Robinson Cano, Seattle Mariners: He is owed $24 million annually through the 2023 season. If Seattle ever wanted to shed some salary, the two sides could find some middle ground for Ellsbury, who grew up in the Pacific Northwest.
Justin Verlander, Tigers: He is owed about $68 million for the rest of this year and for the next two seasons, and a lot of teams find Verlander's contract to be outsized. The Yankees could ask the Tigers to take on Ellsbury and at least a portion of his deal to help make the finances work for them.
If the Yankees cannot find an Ellsbury deal before the July 31 deadline, they undoubtedly would be able to continue the conversations into August, when Ellsbury would clear waivers without being claimed -- because no team would take on his contract without an adjustment -- or into the offseason.