On Wednesday, prior to the Rule 5 Draft protection deadline, the New York Yankees to clear space on the 40-man roster. The 36-year-old Ellsbury had not played in a game since 2017. The Yankees had been unable to provide any updates for when, or if, the injured Ellsbury would return to the field in time for the 2020 season, so the decision to move on from the outfielder despite the cost isn't necessarily unexpected.
The Yankees have informed the Major League Baseball Players' Association (MLBPA) that they don't intend to pay Ellsbury's salary for the upcoming season, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic furthermore reports. The MLBPA released the following statement on the Ellsbury situation, per Rosenthal:
"The Players Association will vigorously defend any action taken against Jacoby or his contract and is investigating potential contract violations by his employer."
And here's the relevant portion of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, which governs the working relationship between the clubs and the players:
"Any treatment a Player receives for a Work-Related Injury by a health care provider who is not affiliated with the Club must be authorized by the Club in advance of the treatment in accordance with Regulation 2 of the (Uniform Players Contract)."
Assuming Ellsbury didn't have permission to use an outside rehab facility, the Yankees would seem to have grounds for a grievance. Whether that means they can withhold some or all of the remaining salary he's owed is left to question and will be resolved through the grievance process. As the statement above indicates, Ellsbury and the MLBPA will do what they can to thwart the Yankees' efforts.
The Yankees reportedly held insurance on Ellsbury's contract and recouped some portion of his salary in 2018 and 2019. But George King and Ken Davidoff of the New York Post report that Ellsbury's deal is not insured in 2020, the final year on his contract.
Ellsbury was riddled with injuries during his three-year tenure with the Yankees, which included surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip, as well as lower back issues, an oblique strain and plantar fasciitis.
At the Rule 5 deadline, the Yankees also cut frequently injured first baseman Greg Bird and left-hander Nestor Cortes Jr. Both were designated for assignment. A total of seven minor leaguers were added to New York's Major League roster: Esteven Florial, Deivi Garcia, Luis Gil, Brooks Kriske, Luis Medina, Nick Nelson and Miguel Yajure.