All along, the assumption was that the anticipation of free agency after this season would inspire Jacoby Ellsbury to once again reach MVP-caliber heights for the Red Sox.

But take it from two of Ellsbury’s teammates: It isn’t so simple.

A year ago, Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli were in Ellsbury’s position. And faced with the chance to cash in by having a big season, they fell flatter than a flapjack. Napoli batted .227 with 56 RBI for the Rangers, while Victorino had his career-worst year and was traded in July from the Phillies to the Dodgers.

In both cases, the allure of a big payday proved only to be an unwanted distraction.

“For me, it wasn’t really putting pressure on myself. It was more all the outside people,” Napoli said. “Your family, your friends, they’re like, ‘Hey, you’ve got to have a big year this year.’ You’re getting all the chatter from everybody. It’s constantly being put in front of you. It’s always in your ear. I remember friends being like,, ‘Man, come on, let’s have a good week.’ It’s like, ‘Get off me. Let me play like every other year.' So, yeah, I could where guys, because of that free agent year, if you start off rough, it’s like you want to do so good that you’re overdoing it.”

Maybe that's what has been happening with Ellsbury.

After grounding to second base four times, including a double play, in Monday night's 6-4 loss to the White Sox, Ellsbury is batting .241 with a .303 on-base percentage. He has only one home run and it came 162 at-bats ago, way back on April 7 in Toronto (the same day that Will Middlebrooks hit three homers). And although Ellsbury leads the league with 13 stolen bases and the majors with 208 plate appearances, he also has produced 147 outs, most in the majors.

With numbers like that, the $100 million contract that agent Scott Boras surely will be seeking this winter isn’t likely to follow.