A dynamic top-of-the-order hitter who is also rated as one of the best defensive center fielders in the game, Ellsbury promises to improve an outfield alignment that was already quite strong with Brett Gardner's range.
"I think it gives you tremendous defense in your outfield, where these guys are going to cover a lot of ground," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "They both can put a lot of pressure on a pitcher when they're on the basepaths, and their ability to go from first to third or first to home on a number of base hits."
Ellsbury agreed to the contract on Tuesday, traveling from his Arizona home to New York for a physical. His addition was one of the earliest strikes of a busy week for the Yankees that also included deals with catcher Brian McCann, pitcher Hiroki Kuroda and infielder Kelly Johnson, as well as a reported deal with outfielder Carlos Beltran.
"Ells is a great person," former Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said. "He has a great smile that lights up a room when he comes in. His talent is extraordinary. He never really was at 100 percent when I had him a couple years ago, but he always wanted to go out there. When he's healthy, he just does everything."
Ellsbury's contract exceeds the $142 million deal that Carl Crawford inked with the Red Sox back in December 2010, which agent Scott Boras was considering to be a benchmark for the speedy outfielder.
The signing figures to return Gardner to left field, but the Yankees will also listen to trade overtures that might fill their other needs, particularly with Friday's departure of second baseman Robinson Cano to the Mariners. Ichiro Suzuki and Vernon Wells are also on the Yankees' roster bubble.
A .297 lifetime hitter, Ellsbury batted .298 with nine home runs, 53 RBIs and a Major League-leading 52 stolen bases in 134 games for Boston last season.
He is two years removed from a terrific 2011 campaign in which he batted .321 with a career-high 32 home runs and 105 RBIs, earning his only All-Star selection and a Gold Glove Award in center field.
"We think Jacoby's home run total will probably rise a little bit playing in this park compared to Fenway," Girardi said.
The Yankees and Boras spoke conceptually about Ellsbury at the General Managers Meetings last month in Orlando, Fla., setting the stage for talks to come. The Yanks' initial target was Beltran, but they backed away when it became clear it would take a three-year commitment to secure the 37-year-old's services.
Cano's departure freed up a considerable amount of the budget, and the Yankees found that they were able to squeeze both Ellsbury and Beltran into the picture in the end.
The left-handed-hitting Ellsbury spent his seven-year big league career with the Red Sox, ending his time in Boston by celebrating the club's World Series title this past October before following a path forged in free agency years ago by Johnny Damon.
"The good thing is Jacoby brought two World Series championships to Boston, and he's a heck of a player," Damon said. "It just seems like he's finding a way to stay healthy, and he's going to be awesome for New York. Unfortunately for Boston fans, this is kind of what happens sometimes."