When pessimistic small-market owners point to the potential downside of major free agent signings, look no further than Yankees failure Jacoby Ellsbury.
The former All-Star outfielder signed a seven-year, $153 million contract with the Yankees in the 2014 offseason, and has barely seen the field in the past few seasons. The 36-year-old hasn't played a major league game since 2017. Even then, he never hit higher than .271 for the Yankees, providing little more than another reason for the Bleacher Creatures to boo and question Brian Cashman. It's a worrisome tale for all MLB teams, especially those strapped for cash.
Pittsburgh is a prime example, where owner Bob Nutting has decreased payroll considerably since the team last made the playoffs in 2016. Nutting and GM Neal Huntington made incremental improvements, or so they thought, to a team which lost in the NL Wild Card Game the previous season to Jake Arrieta and the future World Series Champion Chicago Cubs. Since then, Nutting has preached patience while slowly convincing fans that less spending is actually a necessity. Fans reached a boiling point this offseason, leading to the firing of Huntington and Clint Hurdle.
With Ellsbury's release becoming official, Nutting has something tangible to mention when fans ask, for example, why they traded the likes of Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole, and let countless others leave in free agency. It's a pointless distraction, but one Nutting and Co. use well while stripping the remains of a Bucs team that's been reduced to a baseball embarrassment after a disastrous finish to the season.
The Yankees will fork up $26 million to pay off Ellsbury for the final year of his deal, which is not insured. That will go against the luxury tax. It is an utter disaster.
Nonetheless, the Yankees failure cannot and should not be equated to the spending habits of a small-market team like the Pirates. MLB's system works, in part, because high-spending teams must pay their fair share to teams which cannot afford top talent. It's flawed, but currently the best the league can do.
In the end, we shouldn't feel bad for billionaires losing what amounts to nickels and dimes to the average consumer. Every business must make money, but we assure you owning an MLB team is still a great example of how to increase one's valuation.