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Mark Ellis Rumors
Veteran second baseman Mark Ellis has decided to retire, he tells Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. The 37-year-old played in twelve big league seasons.
Ellis spent his first nine seasons in the bigs with the Athletics, providing a steady presence at the keystone. He was at his most productive in Oakland, slashing .265/.331/.397 and leaning on excellent defense to put up approximately 25 wins above replacement (depending upon one’s favored WAR measure) in that stretch.
After a mid-season trade to the Rockies in 2011, Ellis inked a two-year pact to join the Dodgers and then a one-year pact last year with the Cardinals. Though productive with Los Angeles (in spite of a sub-.700 OPS), Ellis stumbled last year in St. Louis, slashing just .180/.253/.213 in his 202 plate appearances.
With that dozen years of action in the books, Ellis says he is ready to spend more time with his family and enter a new career path. The highly-respected big leaguer should have no problem getting back in the game in another capacity if he so chooses, and A’s GM Billy Beane already indicated that he hopes Ellis will do so for his longtime home club.
Left-hander Joe Saunders has switched agents and is now being represented by The Legacy Agency, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports (Twitter link). Saunders had previously been a Legacy client prior to the 2014 season, when he made the change to Craig Landis of LSW Baseball. Be sure to check out the MLB Trade Rumors Agency Database for agency info on over 1,700 players. Agents: if you’ve got a 40-man roster player or top prospect whose representation is not correctly noted, we welcome corrections at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s some more about other veteran free agents on the hunt for their next team…
- Catcher Geovany Soto is talking to four teams, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets. This number represents a slight narrowing of Soto’s field, as we heard last month that five or six teams were in the mix for his services, including the Rangers, one of his former clubs.
- Right-hander Chad Billingsley has received multiple offers, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports (via Twitter). Billingsley has only pitched 12 innings in the majors since the start of the 2013 season due to a number of elbow injuries, plus a recovery from Tommy John surgery. The Diamondbacks had expressed interest in Billingsley earlier this offseason, which is no surprise given that Arizona GM Dave Stewart is Billingsley’s former agent.
- Mark Ellis‘ agent Jamie Murphy tells Crasnick (Twitter link) that his client looks to play next season if the right situation emerges. Ellis, 37, suffered through a tough 2014 campaign with the Cardinals that included a pair of DL stints and a .180/.253/.213 slash line over 202 plate appearances.
Though there’s been speculation that Royals GM Dayton Moore could be a possibility to take over the GM slot in Atlanta following Frank Wren’s dismissal, Royals owner David Glass told Jon Heyman of CBS Sports that Moore is “absolutely” staying with the Royals. Moore’s contract runs through 2016, but as Heyman and others have noted, it’d seem odd to leave town after getting the Royals to their first World Series in 29 years. Glass had nothing but praise for Moore: “He’s done a great job. He’s as good as it gets as far as a general manager.”
More news from baseball’s Central divisions…
- MLB.com’s Jim Callis breaks down how the Royals constructed their World Series roster, noting that the club has 14 homegrown players (draft or international signing), nine acquired via waivers or trade and only two signed via free agency (Omar Infante and Jason Vargas). One could make the case that Jeremy Guthrie also belongs in the free agent category, as he technically hit the open market for a couple of weeks between the end of the 2012 season and re-signing in Kansas City. However, the most intriguing part of Callis’ piece, for MLBTR readers, may be a comment from Moore on the importance of Jake Odorizzi‘s role in the James Shields/Wade Davis trade: “…he also kept Yordano Ventura out of that deal at that time.”
- MLive.com’s Chris Iott makes five predictions about the upcoming Tigers offseason in his latest piece, prognosticating that Detroit will not make a serious run at re-signing Max Scherzer, nor will it spend lavishly on its bullpen, perhaps adding one mid-range option at best. As he notes, the combined $17MM owed to Joe Nathan and Joakim Soria is already more than the $15.4MM the club spent on last year’s entire Opening Day bullpen. Iott does, however, foresee a re-signing of Victor Martinez. For his last two predictions, he expects an internal competition for the fifth starter slot and that one (or both) or Andy Dirks and Don Kelly will be non-tendered, based on recent comments from GM Dave Dombrowski. Bottom line: he expects Detroit to spend on retaining Martinez and acquiring a center fielder rather than on the bullpen or rotation.
- The Cardinals aren’t likely to re-sign any of their five free agents, writes MLB.com’s Jen Langosch. That means that Justin Masterson, A.J. Pierzynski, Mark Ellis and perhaps most notably, lifetime Cardinal Jason Motte and the resurgent Pat Neshek are ticketed for new jerseys. Neshek is probably the most intriguing of the bunch, as the 34-year-old signed a minor league deal last offseason but earned an All-Star nod en route to a final ERA of 1.87 in 67 1/3 innings with 9.1 K/9 and 1.2 BB/9.
The Padres have already taken a hit to their starting pitching depth after losing Cory Luebke to a second Tommy John surgery, and now right-hander Joe Wieland could suffer the same fate. Wieland is scheduled to have an MRI on his sore right elbow today, and Yahoo's Jeff Passan tweeted late last night that there's "significant concern" throughout the organization, with a re-torn UCL being the worst-case scenario. Wieland, like Luebke, spent the 2013 season recovering from 2012 Tommy John surgery. A second Tommy John surgery has become a familiar refrain around MLB of late; Daniel Hudson underwent his second Tommy John last summer, and there's a strong likelihood that Braves hurlers Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy will do so as well. D'Backs lefty Patrick Corbin could be headed for his first Tommy John surgery as well.
Here are a couple of other NL-West-related items…
- The Dodgers are currently on the lookout for bench help, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, who questions how the club could spent $225MM on payroll but enter the season with such a weak group of reserve players. Rival evaluators in Spring Training consider the Dodgers' bench to be the weakest in the division, says Rosenthal.
- Within that piece, Rosenthal reports that the Dodgers indicated to Mark Ellis early in the offseason that another two-year deal was a possibility. However, Ellis eventually grew weary of the Dodgers' indecisiveness, as they offered a one-year deal after signing Alexander Guerrero. Rosenthal adds that one potential scenario last summer was for the Dodgers to flip Zach Lee to the Angels for Howie Kendrick, then move Ellis to Kansas City for Luke Hochevar, but ownership nixed the Kendrick-for-Lee swap.
- Troy Renck of the Denver Post writes that while the Rockies initially thought right-hander Jordan Lyles would need some time in the minors when they acquired him in the Dexter Fowler trade, Lyles is forcing his way into immediate rotation consideration. He's competing with Franklin Morales for the fifth starter's role, and Lyles could benefit from the fact that Morales has bullpen experience. Manager Walt Weiss told Renck that Lyles is viewed strictly as a starter, so Morales could end up in relief with Lyles in the starting five.
Mike Hegan, a longtime former player and broadcaster, passed away on Wednesday at age 71. Hegan posted a .712 OPS in 2452 PA over 12 seasons with the Yankees, Brewers and Athletics from 1964-77, picking up a spot on the 1969 AL All-Star team as a Seattle Pilot (before the franchise moved to Milwaukee) and earning a World Series ring with the A's in 1972. After retirement, Hegan moved to the broadcast booth and spent 12 seasons as a Brewers TV broadcaster before moving to his hometown of Cleveland in 1989 and spending 23 seasons calling Indians games on both TV and radio. The MLBTR staff sends our condolences to Hegan's family and friends.
Here's the latest from around the majors…
- Masahiro Tanaka's posting period opened this morning and the Yankees have already contacted Tanaka's agent Casey Close, Newsday's Marc Carig reports. Earlier today on MLBTR, we collected more Tanaka-related news, and I opined that Tanaka's market may be larger than expected.
- The Mariners will also be "a factor" for Tanaka, a baseball official tells Roger Rubin of the New York Daily News. “They have a following in Japan. They enjoyed what they had when Ichiro (Suzuki) was on the team. They want the chance for moves like getting [Robinson] Cano to pay off. And they envision [Felix] Hernandez paired with Tanaka at the top of the rotation," the official said.
- The White Sox are confident that the torn left UCL that sidelined Adam Eaton for half of the 2013 season is no longer a problem, GM Rick Hahn told CSN Chicago's Dan Hayes. “The elbow injury wasn't something we felt, and our medical people felt, would be a long‑term issue….We certainly paid attention to what he looked like coming back from that injury, but it was the kind of thing that shouldn't be a lingering issue," Hahn said. Hayes also talks to Eaton himself about his recovery from the injury. Chicago acquired Eaton as part of the three-team trade with the D'Backs and Angels that sent Mark Trumbo to Arizona and Tyler Skaggs/Hector Santiago to L.A.
- The Cardinals' low-profile additions of Peter Bourjos and Mark Ellis could pay big dividends and make the team better in 2014, MLB.com's Lyle Spencer opines.
- The Reds' window for making a big trade "may be closing," MLB.com's Mark Sheldon writes. The team should make a few moves in January, however, and could add a free agent bat if a discount price can be found.
- Former Mariners GM Bill Bavasi contacted SB Nation's Rob Neyer about Bavasi's trade of Shin-Soo Choo to the Indians in 2006. While Bavasi said he was under pressure from Seattle's upper management to improve the club, he doesn't excuse himself for moves that backfired, saying "the Choo and [Asdrubal] Cabrera trades were a product of my own stupidity and good work by the Indians."
- Sportsnet.ca's Ben Nicholson-Smith lists three potential suitors for 10 of the top remaining free agents.
- Finally, it was on this day in 1919 that arguably the most important trade in baseball history was agreed upon — Red Sox owner Harry Frazee's deal to sell Babe Ruth to the Yankees. CBS Sports' Dayn Perry has some of the history behind the infamous sale, and MLB FanCave tweeted a picture of the actual transfer contract.
MONDAY: Ellis' contract guarantees him $5.25MM and contains more than $1MM worth of incentives, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter links). Ellis obtains the same base salary that he had in 2013 and, when combined with the $1MM buyout he received from the Dodgers, has exceeded the amount of money he could have earned had Los Angeles simply exercised the option.
SUNDAY: The Cardinals have a one-year deal in place with free agent second baseman Mark Ellis, with a physical and subsequent announcement expected later this week, reports Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (via Twitter). Ellis is represented by TWC Sports.
Ellis, 36, spent the last two seasons as the Dodgers' primary second baseman, but hit the open market when Los Angeles declined declined a $5.75MM club option for 2014. Last year, he hit .270/.323/.351 in 480 plate appearances. As has come to be expected, Ellis continued to display stellar defense, putting up +7.6 UZR/150 and +12 DRS per The Fielding Bible in 2013. That bumped his value into the range of about one-and-a-half to three wins above replacement, depending on which WAR recipe you prefer.
Looking at the list of available second baggers, Ellis was probably the best overall option left on the market at this point. While other players offered more attractive age or upside, Ellis has been a consistent contributor for nearly a decade. With Omar Infante and Juan Uribe coming off the board in recent days, Stephen Drew is arguably the only free agent, non-first baseman infielder left on the market who should be counted on as an above-average regular next season.
St. Louis had been expected to add a veteran option that could play up the middle, and Ellis should fit in well in the Cardinals infield mix. 23-year-old prospect Kolten Wong figures to have the inside track to the everyday job at the keystone. But Ellis offers both a veteran alternative and a platoon option to pair with Wong's left-handed bat. Over his 5,500+ MLB plate appearances, Ellis has a .777 OPS against lefties and a .700 OPS against same-handed hurlers. Wong has, unsurprisingly, posted somewhat better numbers against righties in the early stages of his professional career. Ellis could also spell Matt Carpenter at third, notes Rosenthal (via Twitter).
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Former first-round pick Brian Anderson has come full circle, deciding to try his hand as an outfielder again. Anderson tallied 355 big league games from 2005-09, mostly for the White Sox, before switching to the mound in 2010. He battled injuries as a pitcher, and tells MLBTR now, "I'd love to get back on the field again." Here are more notes from the Central divisions.
- The White Sox are "determined" to acquire a catcher before the Winter Meetings are through, Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com tweets.
- The Cardinals today met with Mark Ellis' agent, Jamie Murphy of TWC, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports (on Twitter). The Cardinals currently have youngster Kolten Wong penciled in at second base, but Ellis might allow Wong to start the season in the minors, or might provide an insurance policy in case Wong struggles. Maybe it's too early to read too much into it, however — Slusser notes that Murphy has met with many teams.
- Jhonny Peralta takes care of the Cardinals' offensive void at shortstop but he comes with plenty of question marks, writes Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
- The Pirates are looking for a first baseman, but they say they could just stick with Gaby Sanchez there, reports MLB.com's John Schlegel. "I think a lot of people are uncomfortable with Gaby as our answer. We're not," says GM Neal Huntington. Huntington does note, however, that Sanchez pounds left-handed pitching and struggles against right-handers. It seems unlikely that the Pirates would go into the 2014 season with Sanchez as their primary first baseman against righties.
Tim Dierkes and Zach Links contributed to this post.
The Royals, Rays and Dodgers are all interested in second baseman Mark Ellis, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter). Rosenthal goes on to opine that at the moment, Ellis isn't a great fit for the Rays — a point with which I agree. Ben Zobrist figures to play second base regularly in 2014 given the outfield of Wil Myers, Desmond Jennings, David DeJesus and Matt Joyce as well as the presence of Yunel Escobar at shortstop.
The Dodgers turned down a $5.75MM club option on Ellis earlier in the offseason, but he could make sense for them as an insurance policy in the event that Cuban signee Alexander Guerrero isn't ready to take the reins as the team's everyday second baseman right out of Spring Training. The 36-year-old Ellis slashed .270/.323/.351 for the Dodgers in 2013 and played strong defense at second base, as he's done throughout his career.
Ellis' slash line isn't particularly strong (it translated to a wRC+ and an OPS+ of 92), but even repeating those somewhat pedestrian numbers would be a marked improvement for the Royals. Kansas City's second basemen combined to bat just .240/.296/.306 as a collective unit in 2013. Emilio Bonifacio projects as their current starter, and while he was solid for Kansas City after coming over from Toronto, he's been an inconsistent performer throughout his career.
The Royals are very interested in Carlos Beltran, but the Yankees remain the favorites to sign him, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports. "I think at this point it would be an upset if he didn’t end up there," one executive tells Sherman. The Yankees have thus far been unwilling to give Beltran a three-year deal, but they could eventually land him by giving him three years or by paying heavily for two. Regardless of the Yankees' current issues, the perception of the Yanks as a winning organization matters to Beltran, even though they won fewer games than Kansas City did last year. Here are more notes from around the Majors.
- Sherman writes that the Mets are no longer interested in free agent shortstop Rafael Furcal, who missed last season with Tommy John surgery, because of concerns about his health. The Mets are looking for an upgrade over Ruben Tejada at shortstop.
- Furcal himself says that the Mets, Red Sox, Marlins, Pirates, Nationals, Rockies and other teams have shown interest in him, reports Enrique Rojas of ESPNDeportes.com (link in Spanish).
- After failing to find common ground on a contract extension, the Padres would listen to offers for Chase Headley, Sherman reports. The question is how he should be valued — Headley hit .286/.376/.498 in a terrific 2012 season, then came back to earth with a .250/.347/.400 season in 2013.
- Even after landing Ricky Nolasco, the Twins will continue to strongly pursue free agents and trade possibilities, Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN tweets. The Twins have been connected to any number of starting pitchers, including Bronson Arroyo, Phil Hughes and trade targets Homer Bailey and Jeremy Hellickson. They've also been tied to catchers like Jarrod Saltalamacchia and A.J. Pierzynski.
- The Twins aren't the only suitors for Hughes, tweets Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The Royals are also making "a strong push" for the former Yankees righty. Hughes is expected to receive a two-year deal, with the Mariners and Angels potentially being involved along with the Royals and Twins. Berardino also points out that Hughes' agent, Nez Balelo of CAA Sports, also represents Jason Vargas, who recently signed a four-year deal with Kansas City.
- The Royals need a second baseman, and a team official recently told the Kansas City Star's Bob Dutton that the Royals think Mark Ellis "has something left" (via Twitter). Ellis, 36, hit just .270/.323/.351 last season with the Dodgers, but he's a consistently-above-average defensive player.
- Carlos Santana of the Indians would like to play in the field more, but the Indians already have good options at catcher in Yan Gomes and at first base in Nick Swisher. Instead, then, Santana would like to try third base, and Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes that the Indians are interested in the possibility, in part because Santana is taking initiative rather than complaining. (He's working out at third at the Indians' Dominican facility.) Whether Santana can field at third base is an open question — he hasn't played more than a handful of games at the position since 2006, when he was in the Dodgers' minor-league system. If the Indians have any confidence he can play there, though, they might be less inclined to pursue a righty-hitting third-base type this offseason. Lefty-hitting Lonnie Chisenhall, who struggled last season, currently sits atop the Indians' depth chart at third.
The Marlins are looking to fill voids at second base, third base, and catcher this offseason and it appears that GM Dan Jennings has a level of flexibility that predecessor Larry Beinfest did not, writes Peter Gammons of Gammons Daily. For their second base opening, Miami has discussed Mark Ellis, who would also provide the club with some needed veteran leadership.
The 36-year-old had his $5.75MM club option declined by the Dodgers after they finalized their deal with Cuban second baseman Alexander Guerrero. Ellis batted .270/.323/.351 with six homers and four steals in 126 games (480 plate appearances) for the Dodgers and, as usual, he was a standout defender at second base. Ellis posted marks of +7.6 in UZR/150 and +12 in The Fielding Bible's Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) metric. The Tigers also have Ellis on their radar.
The Marlins have also approached the Red Sox about 22-year-old third baseman Garin Cecchini, even though he would appear to be similar to Colin Moran, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2013 draft. Cecchini spent time in Advanced-A and Double-A in 2013, hitting a combined .322/.443/.471 with seven homers. Baseball America ranked Cecchini as the seventh-best prospect in the Red Sox's system heading into the 2013 season. One executive covering the Arizona Fall League told Gammons that the youngster “has sneaky power that will play in the big leagues and will keep increasing in pro ball.”