What to do with Mark Ellis

In his two seasons with the Dodgers, second baseman Mark Ellis has been everything that the Dodgers could have hoped for. He has been superb with the glove and had some clutch at bats, usually in the number two hole. But Mark Ellis is 36 years old and just concluded the final season of his 2-year/$8.75 million contract, of which he has certainly earned every penny and in the big scheme of things was a steal at the price.

Where things get sticky is that the Dodgers hold a team option on the Rapid City, SD native for the 2014 season to the tune of $5.75 million which, to be brutally honest, is not a steal at the price – not when you consider that Ellis will be 37 years old when that option expires, should the Dodgers choose to exercise it instead of paying Ellis a $1 million buyout.

If the Dodgers were to exercise Ellis’s option (which I doubt they will), it would most likely be as a utility infielder/bench player role – this because the Dodgers recently signed Cuban phenom Alexander Guerrero to a 4-year/$28 million contract (with a $10 million signing bonus) on October 22. If kept, Ellis would be used as a back-up second baseman for Guerrero and perhaps a back-up third baseman for Juan Uribe, who is also a free agent and may not return to the Dodgers in 2014 (but many think he will). The problem with this, however, is that Ellis has played third base exactly 7 times in his 11-year MLB career, this in spite of having been an all-star third baseman for the Florida Gators.

What looms large for Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti and what may be the deciding factor on whether or not to bring Ellis back for 2014 is his light hitting. In his two seasons with the Dodgers, Ellis had a triple slash of .264/.328/.357 with 13 home runs and 79 RBIs. And while these numbers are not bad for a number two hitter, are they worth $5.75 million for a bench player? Probably not.

With the recent signing of Cuban infielder Alexander Guerrero, perhaps it is time for Ellis to move on. (Photo credit - Jeff Gross)

With the recent signing of Cuban infielder Alexander Guerrero and with the Dodgers commitment to ‘get younger,’ perhaps it is time for them to move on without Mark Ellis. (Photo credit – Jeff Gross)

All of this being said, Mark Ellis is one of three finalists for the 2013 NL Gold Glove Award for second basemen, along with Darwin Barney of the Cubs and Brandon Phillips of the Reds. Ellis finished the season with a .989 fielding percentage (6 errors in 533 total chances) compared to Barney’s .993 FPCT (8 errors in 603 total chances) and Phillips’s .987 FPCT (9 errors in 715 total chances). If the NL managers and coaches base their Gold Glove decisions solely on fielding percentages (which they have a tendency to do), Barney should win the Gold Glove. This is extremely unfair because, as we all know, there is much more to being the best at your respective defensive position than only the number of errors committed.

Taking this one step further, in 2006 Mark Ellis was, hands down, the best second baseman in the AL (if not all of baseball) with his single-season AL record-setting .99685 FPCT while a member of the Oakland A’s, yet the Gold Glove went to Royals second baseman Mark Grudzielanek with his .994 FPCT – an injustice if ever there was one.

As previously noted, I suspect that the Dodgers will not exercise Mark Ellis’s $5.75 million club option and will send him on his way as a free agent, but I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if they make him an offer in the $2 to $3 million range to return as a utility infielder – especially if he wins the Gold Glove later this afternoon.

Stay tuned…


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7 Responses to “What to do with Mark Ellis”

  1. Cy Young says:

    Might not be such a bad idea to retain him. His glove is so valuable. I don’t know how good of a fielder Guerrero is, but there’s not a better fielder on the Dodgers than Mark Ellis.

    • Ron Cervenka says:

      There is every indication that Alexander Guerrero has the potential to be the best second baseman in the game today. Not only is he an outstanding defender, he is a masher at the plate.

      I am a huge Mark Ellis fan, but he is no longer an everyday 2B. In fact, he played in only 126 games in 2014. (Schumaker played in 125 and Punto in 116 – both of whom are utility bench players).

  2. MFGRREP says:

    If it were my choice, I would pick up the one year option. He’s solid and we know exactly what we’re getting. Plus it’s one year and gives us the time to develop the new kid. The new kid should spend some time in the minors and possibly be a call up during the season assuming he’s all he’s made out to be in AA or AAA.

    • Ron Cervenka says:

      Guerrero is 26 years old and has been playing professionally in Cuba for six years. Starting him in the minors would have been like starting Hyun-jin Ryu in the minors. This from Colletti:

      “We feel Alexander can be an offensive infielder and a solid everyday player. We’re looking forward to him competing for a middle infield position and becoming a key contributor in 2014. He’s a big league infielder that has versatility to him.”

  3. Bluenose Dodger says:

    Guerrero will be 27 in December and should pretty much be in his prime or near it. One would expect the team is pretty sure he can play at the MLB level. That seems to assume the Cuban League is somewhat equivalent to MLB.

    I love what Mark Ellis gives but he is not really versatile enough to be a utility infielder able to play multiple positions. I think he is too expensive to be a back up second baseman. At some point $$$ are going to be a concern for the Dodgers regardless of the seemingly endless money pit.

    I would like to see some bench players with a little more pop.

  4. Bluenose Dodger says:

    Dodgers decline options on Ellis and Capuano. No surprise but Ellis may still wind up as a Dodger.

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