NASHVILLE -- The domino effect that can occur whenever a team makes a move at the winter meetings may have created another center-field option for the Phillies via trade Tuesday.
After the Boston Red Sox signed former Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino to a three-year, $39 million deal, the rumblings started that they may be ready to move Jacoby Ellsbury, a player who finished second in the American League MVP voting in 2011.
A separated shoulder limited Ellsbury to 74 games in 2012, marking the second time in three seasons he missed substantial time because of injuries. A rib injury limited him to 18 games in 2010.
The Phillies are already relying on Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Roy Halladay to have comeback seasons after missing long stretches of the 2012 season, so it would be a risk to count upon Ellsbury as their starting center fielder, too.
On the other hand, the reward would be great if Ellsbury returned to his 2011 form when he hit .321 with 47 doubles, 32 home runs and 105 RBIs while also stealing 39 bases and scoring 119 runs.
The risk in terms of dollars and long-term commitment would not be significant. Ellsbury, 29, will be a free agent after the 2013 season, so he should be motivated to play for a long-term deal. He made just over $8 million last season and probably will be paid right around that number next season.
Whenever Ellsbury has been healthy he has been an elite player. He led the American League in stolen bases with 50 in 2008 and 70 in 2009. He has scored 90 or more runs in the three seaosns he played at least 145 games and he has a .349 career on-base percentage.
Like Michael Bourn, the best pure free-agent center fielder on the free-agent market at these winter meetings, Ellsbury is represented by agent Scott Boras. Since Ellsbury is only eligible for salary arbitration, there would be no significant negotations.
What would the Phillies have to surrender in a trade for Ellsbury? The deal could get done for righthander Vance Worley because the Red Sox need another starting pitcher. Worley, 25, should be attractive to a lot of teams even though he is coming off a frustrating season caused by a bone spur that was surgically removed in September. Worley is not eligible for salary arbitratrion until after the 2013 season and cannot be a free agent until after the 2017 season. The Red Sox, after spending big in the free-agent market this offseason, should like that kind of low-cost option for the back of their starting rotation.