NEW YORK (Reuters) - The New York Yankees welcomed a new star and paid respects to a disgruntled, departing one at a news conference for free agent outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury on Friday.
Ellsbury, the former center fielder for bitter rivals the Boston Red Sox, signed a seven-year contract to come to the Bronx in a deal worth a reported $153 million.
“I’ve been able to witness what he can do 19 times a year,” manager Joe Girardi said about the former rival, who led the American League with 52 stolen bases last season for the World Series champion Red Sox.
“There’s so many different ways that he can beat you. Whether it’s with his power, his speed or his glove. You are no longer a thorn in my side,” the Yankees manager said. “You are a flower in our clubhouse and I‘m happy to have you.”
Lead-off hitter Ellsbury batted .298 with nine home runs and 57 runs batted in last season after showing considerable power in 2011 by blasting 32 homers with 105 RBIs and a .321 batting average.
The 30-year-old said the Yankees let him know “right from the get-go” of the free agency period that he was a top priority and that he was excited to be joining the Bronx Bombers.
Officials were all smiles at Yankee Stadium on Friday, one day after Seattle introduced their free agent jewel, former Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano, who took a shot at his old club by saying he felt disrespected by their contract offer.
The sweet-swinging Cano signed a massive 10-year, $240 million contract to join the Mariners in a deal that should take him through to the end of his playing days.
As for the Yankees, the 31-year-old Cano said he was disappointed in the negotiations. “I didn’t feel respect. I didn’t get any respect from them and I didn’t see any effort,” the power-hitting Dominican said.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman on Friday said the team targeted Ellsbury based on the team’s reluctance to satisfy Cano’s quest for a 10-year deal.
“We wanted to move sooner than later,” admitted Cashman. “We started to see the writing on the wall that Robbie wasn’t going to be a Yankee, that he wasn’t going to stay.”
Yankees president Randy Levine said he thought the team demonstrated to Cano that they seriously wanted him.
”We showed him the ultimate respect,“ Levine said. ”We offered him seven years for $175 million. If that’s not trying hard, I don’t know what it is.
”At 25 million average annual value, except for Alex (Yankee third baseman Rodriguez) and (Detroit pitcher) Justin Verlander, that’s the highest in baseball, so that’s a lot of respect.
“It just came down to our position that 10-year contracts for players over 30 doesn’t work.”
Levine said there were no hard feelings.
”I think Robbie is disappointed he’s not a Yankee. He had a great career here. We’ll always be fond of him and always remember him. We wish him really well.
“We tried very, very hard to sign him. He got an enormous offer and there’s nothing wrong with taking that money.”
Reporting by Larry Fine, Editing by Gene Cherry