Ellsbury: It was 'very clear they really wanted me'
Dynamic outfielder, who will wear No. 22, formally introduced at news conference
NEW YORK -- The Yankees describe Jacoby Ellsbury as the type of dynamic force who could help bring a few more championship banners to the Bronx, and as he trades in his Red Sox for pinstripes, that idea seems to suit the speedy outfielder just fine.
Ellsbury was formally introduced in a Yankee Stadium news conference on Friday, putting the finishing touch on his seven-year, $153 million contract with the Bombers. The deal includes an option for an eighth season that would increase its total value to $169 million.
"In the beginning of the process, I think you want to hear what all the teams have to say, but it was a very easy decision once I started talking to New York," Ellsbury said. "They made it very clear they really wanted me. It went pretty fast and it was an easy decision."
Ellsbury will wear No. 22 for the Yankees, displaying his new jersey and cap proudly in a photo opportunity alongside manager Joe Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman.
Girardi said that he is thrilled to have Ellsbury on his side after watching the 30-year-old spark the Red Sox over the years. This past season, Ellsbury batted .298 with nine home runs, 53 RBIs and a Major League-leading 52 steals in 134 games for the World Series champions.
"There are so many different ways he can beat you, whether it's with his power or with his speed or with his glove," Girardi said. "Jacoby, you are going to make my job so much easier. You are no longer a thorn in my side; you are a flower in our clubhouse."
Ellsbury was joined on the dais by his wife Kelsey, agent Scott Boras, Girardi and a contingent of the Yankees' front office staff, including managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner, team president Randy Levine, chief operating officer Lonn Trost and Cashman.
Though Ellsbury has battled injury problems over his career -- he has missed 264 games over the past four seasons, mostly as the result of two on-field collisions -- Steinbrenner said that he expects Ellsbury to be a consistent performer for the Yankees.
"First of all, he's mentally tough. We know that," Steinbrenner said. "Second of all, a lot of the injuries, if you look at them, are freakish: running into walls, running into people, people falling on top of you. It's those kind of things. I'd be more concerned if it was a serious shoulder issue that is chronic or serious or something else that was chronic. I think he'll be fine."
Steinbrenner pointed out that Ellsbury played well in the postseason for Boston, even as he was battling a compression fracture in his right foot that did not heal until recently.
"You can't have enough grinders, can't have enough guys that work hard," Steinbrenner said. "Dynamic is a perfect word for him. He's great in the clubhouse, a good leader and tough. You just can't have enough of those guys. I think Brian McCann and him are two very good additions."
Cashman said that the Yankees pivoted to a pursuit of Ellsbury when it became apparent that Robinson Cano was going to leave via free agency.
"We tried to take him off the board as early as we could, especially with the feeling of how the conversations with Robbie Cano were going," Cashman said. "We were like, 'We'd better start moving on some things, because Robbie's not going to be here.' It was clear."
Ellsbury owns a .297 career average with 476 runs, 155 doubles, 65 home runs, 314 RBIs and 241 stolen bases in 715 career Major League games over seven seasons with Boston. He is expected to be the Yankees' center fielder, though club brass is still leaving some wiggle room in that decision.
As currently projected, Ellsbury will play alongside fellow speedster Brett Gardner and Carlos Beltran, who took his physical on Thursday and should soon be introduced with a three-year, $45 million deal.
"Brett's tremendous out there," Ellsbury said. "He's a very good outfielder; I'm excited to play with him. We're going to cover a lot of ground out in the outfield. Not a lot of balls are going to be falling."
The Yankees also have Alfonso Soriano, Ichiro Suzuki and Vernon Wells involved in a crowded outfield mix that figures to be whittled down before Opening Day.
Ellsbury is two years removed from an outstanding 2011 season in which he slugged a career-high 32 homers, and he agreed that the short right-field porch at Yankee Stadium will be enticing. Ellsbury added that he also will appreciate the passion of New York's fan base.
"The biggest thing I've always enjoyed is the expectation of winning," Ellsbury said. "We had that in Boston, you have it in New York and the fans expect you to win. That drives me to push my game and compete at a high level each and every night. That was something that I loved about Boston, and I know I'm going to enjoy it about New York, the expectation of winning."
In the days before agreeing to sign with the Yankees, Ellsbury said that he reached out to Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira, both of whom painted a picture of an inviting environment Ellsbury can't wait to experience for himself.
"They just welcomed me with open arms and let me know they were excited to have me here," Ellsbury said. "The first thing they said was, 'You're going to love New York, you're going to love the city.' That's really what I came away with."