Yankees will eat $26 million after releasing Jacoby Ellsbury

Mark Townsend
Yahoo Sports Contributor

Jacoby Ellsbury’s disappointing tenure with the New York Yankees has come to an end.

The Yankees announced they released the 36-year-old veteran prior to Wednesday’s 8 p.m. 40-man roster deadline. By releasing Ellsbury, the Yankees will eat the $26 million remaining on the seven-year, $153 million free-agent contract that was signed prior to the 2014 season.

New York also announced first baseman Greg Bird has been designated for assignment.

Jacoby Ellsbury signing was a $153 million bust

There were high hopes from the Yankees side when Ellsbury first signed his contract nearly six years ago. Ellsbury, then 30, was two years removed from his breakthrough season in which he produced career highs in home runs (32), RBIs (105), hits (212) and batting average (.321) for the Boston Red Sox.

There were also doubts from those on the outside looking in after Ellsbury struggled to stay healthy during the 2012 season. Ellsbury was limited to 74 games that season and wasn't nearly as productive in 134 games during 2013.

New York Yankees release injury-riddled outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, will eat $26 million. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Unfortunately for the Yankees, the concerns surrounding Ellsbury's ability to stay healthy were proven valid. Over the last six seasons, Ellsbury has played in only 520 games. The most recent came on Sept. 30, 2017.

Ellsbury has battled a series of ailments since then. He most notably had surgery on Aug. 6, 2018 to repair a torn labrum in his left hip. He experienced plantar fasciitis in his right foot during his rehab program before spring training this year and was never able to return.

Ellsbury finishes his Yankees' tenure with a .264/.330/.386 batting line to go along with 39 total home runs. That amounts to a 9.8 WAR. For a bit of perspective, that's lower than Mike Trout's single-season WAR in three of the last six seasons.

Greg Bird never panned out

Ellsbury gets the headlines because of his contract, but the end of Greg Bird's Yankees' tenure is every bit as disappointing.

The 27-year-old was long considered the Yankees first baseman of the future. Unfortunately, like Ellsbury, injuries limited his playing time and ultimately impacted his effectiveness.

Bird missed all of 2016 after undergoing shoulder surgery. Upon his return, he never appeared in more than 82 games and never hit better than .199 in any of the three following seasons.

Of the two players, Bird is more likely to get another chance in the big leagues. His power is legit, which figures to make him an attractive bench player. He also has youth on his side. Ellsbury will first have to prove he can get healthy. Then he'll have to stay healthy and prove he can contribute.

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