In 2011, when Jose Reyes was approaching free agency with the Mets, the biggest argument against giving him a long-term contract was highlighted when, in the midst of a season in which he would go on to win the batting title and for a brief time was the most dynamic player in baseball, he strained a hamstring and missed a chunk of the second half. When he returned, he appeared to be running at partial speed only stealing 9 bases between July and the end of the season and putting forth the image of personal interests—staying healthy—being above playing all out.
The hovering injury bugaboo was repeatedly scoffed at by Reyes supporters saying that his hamstring problems had been more prevalent early in his career; that the 2009 hamstring tear and subsequent surgery were, in part, due to the Mets forcing him to play when he was already hurt; that his missed time in 2010 was because of a medical scare with his thyroid; and that his durability was proven when he played every day from 2005-2008.
In truth, Reyes has had and will always have that question mark following him as to whether his hamstring is set to blow at any moment. It was a recurring worry whether admitted and accepted or not.
Another speed player preparing for his final year before free agency and whose name has surfaced in trade talks is Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury. With the Mets in desperate need of a center fielder and pitching to trade and the Red Sox having signed Shane Victorino, there is reason to speculate on the Mets making a move on Ellsbury, perhaps dangling R.A. Dickey to the pitching-short Red Sox. If the Red Sox trade Ellsbury are his physical problems that limited him to 18 games in 2010 and 74 games in 2012 reason to shy away from him the way the Mets, in part, did Reyes?
If there’s anything to fear regarding Ellsbury, it’s not injuries, but his agent Scott Boras and pending free agency after 2013. Ellsbury has shown himself to be an MVP-caliber player with speed, power, and Gold Glove defense in center field. Despite baseless assertions to the contrary, he’s tough. His injuries, unlike those of Reyes, have not been to one specific part of his body and of the pull/tear variety. Ellsbury’s injuries have been due to impact. One was a broken rib sustained in a collision with Adrian Beltre in 2010; the other was a partially dislocated shoulder on a slide into second base in 2012.
To a degree, it’s something to be watchful over, but not overly concerned about. A player getting injured because he crashes into things is significantly different from a player who has continually had the same issue with the same part of his body.
Ellsbury is going to be expensive if the Red Sox trade him and Boras will likely resist efforts to sign his player to a contract extension during the season. These are legitimate reasons to hesitate before giving up a ton to get him, but the term “injury prone” is simply not accurate and shouldn’t be used as an excuse to dismiss trying to get an All-Star player who fills a desperate need for many teams.