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Yankees hope to recoup money owed to Jacoby Ellsbury in 2020, per report

The veteran outfielder hasn’t played since 2017 but hopes to return next season.

MLB: Spring Training-Toronto Blue Jays at New York Yankees Photo by Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

In an interesting twist to an off-the-field story that has been playing out for nearly three years now, the Yankees are hoping to avoid paying outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury (who was released Wednesday) the $26,142,857 he is contractually owed in 2020, alleging that he received medical treatment from non-team personnel without the club’s authorization. The New York Post’s Ken Davidoff and George King III were the first to report the news Friday, and The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal provided additional reporting:

The 36-year-old Ellsbury is reportedly hoping to return to the field in 2020 after two years lost to injuries — first an oblique strain, then hip surgery and plantar fasciitis, along with numerous other minor ailments. Per standard MLB policy, the Yankees would owe Ellsbury the $26,142,857 they signed him for in 2020, minus the $563,500 major-league minimum that his new club would owe him if he ends up signing elsewhere. Considering a couple of factors, it’s surprising that the Yankees would go to these lengths to avoid paying Ellsbury the money they promised him: First of all, this treatment of a Scott Boras client could affect the Yankees’ ability to compete for Boras clients like Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg, and secondly, it felt like Ellsbury was doing the Yankees a solid by staying away from the team over the last two summers, allowing them to collect insurance on his contract and avoid releasing him while they utilized a group of superior outfielders.

Ellsbury, who signed a seven-year, $153 million contract in December 2013, posted a .264/.330/.386 slash line over four seasons in pinstripes, hitting 39 homers with 102 steals over that stretch. In 2017, the final season in which he played for the Yankees, he hit .264/.348/.402 with seven home runs and 22 stolen bases. Despite that solid if unspectacular production, his contract will go down viewed by many as one of the worst in major-league history — and one that likely changed the landscape of free agency forever — due to the fact that Ellsbury was a backup by his fourth year in New York and didn’t play in a single game for the Yankees over the final three seasons of the deal.