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Buster Olney on M&M: Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox’ interests will ‘diverge unless he starts to hit’

05.22.13 at 1:48 pm ET
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ESPN baseball writer Buster Olney joined the Mut & Merloni show Wednesday to talk about Jacoby Ellsbury‘€™s slow start and other topics from around the majors.

Olney pointed out in his column Wednesday morning that the 29-year-old might not have much of a market as a free agent this offseason if his poor performance continues, and that would be bad for both the Red Sox and Ellsbury.

‘€œIn the Red Sox best interests and in Jacoby Ellsbury’€™s best interest, he could go into this year or let’€™s just say from today forward and just start hitting like crazy and go back to being what he was in 2011, set himself up for a big payday in the offseason, the Red Sox let him go away and they get a draft pick in return,’€ Olney said. ‘€œI think at that point probably everybody would be happy. But I do think at some point the interests for the Red Sox and Jacoby are going to diverge unless he starts to hit. Because the Red Sox have to go about the business of trying to win games in 2013 and Ellsbury certainly needs to play as much as he possibly can to help his market value.’€

Ellsbury’€™s numbers have dipped significantly from his 2011 season, when he was runner-up for the American League MVP. One of the biggest differences was that he hit 32 home runs in 158 games that season, while he has only hit five home runs in his last 119 games since. If he could regain those power numbers, his market value would significantly increase.

‘€œYou guys see his at-bats on a day-to-day basis more than I do, but what you hear a lot of is that he is rolling over balls,’€ Olney said. ‘€œMaybe that is a part of his effort to drive the ball and to hit for extra-base hits because that is the separator. The question is: Is he that type of player? Or was 2011 a really great and nice aberration?’€

If Ellsbury does not improve soon, he could be left without many offers this offseason, and his best option could be to return to the Red Sox on a one-year tender, according to Olney. However, with prospects like Jackie Bradley Jr. and Bryce Brentz climbing up the system, it would be an interesting predicament for the Red Sox front office.

‘€œI think Bryce Brentz plays into it, who is a guy who has been on a tear lately in Triple-A,’€ Olney said. ‘€œHe hits left-handed pitching. From what I hear he is a pretty good outfielder. He could play right field, they could move [Shane] Victorino to center field, they have Bradley they could play in center field. It doesn’€™t seem like when you look at the Red Sox being cost efficient for 2014 that having Jacoby Ellsbury on the team and paying him would be an efficient use of those dollars given the other players that they have. But it all becomes very murky because of what Jacoby is not doing right now.’€

Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page. For more Red Sox news, visit the team page at weei.com/redsox.

On Ellsbury possibly being traded this season: ‘€œMy question about whether or not they would consider trading him would be based on his response if they at any point decide, ‘You know what? We are going to work in a platoon. We are going to use other guys. We are not going to necessarily guarantee him being in the lineup every day.’ And if they felt like that wasn’€™t something he was going to go along with willingly, then at that point maybe you say, ‘Maybe we should move him out.’ And I’€™m guessing that one of the things they would be looking at in return, because you’€™re not going to get a ton of return for all the reasons you stated, would be a bullpen piece.

“There aren’€™t a lot of teams that would be in the market for him. There are some teams that could use a center fielder, but they are developing teams, not necessarily a contender. It would have to be a contender that would know he would walk away as a free agent at the end of the year and they would be comfortable with that.’€

On Kevin Gausman’€™s upcoming debut for the Orioles: I talked to an evaluator in spring training with another team who was involved in the decision on whether or not his team was going to take a look at Gausman in the draft and he said to me, ‘€˜You know, we didn’€™t see as much movement on his fastball as we would have liked.’€™ And I told that to Buck Showalter in spring training and Buck gave me that look where his eyes popped wide open and his mouth was wide open and he was like, ‘€˜What? Our Kevin Gausman?’€™ Buck loves him. Not only does he have an impact arm, plus stuff, but has tremendous makeup, front-of-the-rotation-type guy, No. 4 overall pick. So they are really excited about it and, let’€™s face it, they are in a situation right now where they need better production out of their rotation.

On Mariano Rivera‘€™s dominance this season: ‘€œMariano Rivera looks like he is 23 instead of 43. I’€™ll put this on as total speculation now, guys. If he were to come back and pitch in 2014, that wouldn’€™t surprise me. He is absolutely intent right now on retiring, but he is throwing the ball so well, he is right now one of the best relievers if not the best reliever in baseball. And you do wonder at the end of the year coming off this phenomenal season and if the Yankees offer a ton of money, he might say, ‘€˜You know what? That was easy enough. Let me go back and do it for one more year.’€™ ‘€

Read More: buster olney, Jacoby Ellsbury, Kevin Gausman, Mariano Rivera
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