There’s mutual interest between the Phillies and veteran catcher A.J. Ellis about a reunion for the 2017 season, reports ESPN’s Jayson Stark. The Phils would like to have Ellis back and consider him both a leader and an “unofficial coach,” Stark notes.
The 35-year-old Ellis (36 in April) went from the Dodgers to the Phils alongside Tommy Bergjans and Joey Curletta in a surprising August swap that sent fellow veteran catcher Carlos Ruiz to Los Angeles. Ellis logged just 11 games with the Phils but showed well, hitting .333/.371/.500 in a tiny sample of 35 plate appearances. Those numbers brought up his overall season production a bit, but he still finished the year with an overall disappointing line of .216/.301/.298.
As it stands, the Phils project to have Cameron Rupp as their everyday catcher on the heels of a solid season. Rupp hit .252/.303/.447 with 16 homers and controlled the running game at an average rate (27 percent) while drawing slightly below-average framing marks from Baseball Prospectus. Ellis would profile as a backup to the 28-year-old Rupp and would offer a veteran source of advice for a pitching staff that, outside of right-hander Jeremy Hellickson, is quite young and lacks significant experience. None of Aaron Nola, Vince Velasquez or Jerad Eickhoff has thrown even 250 innings in the Major Leagues, and the Phils’ fifth starter will likely have even less experience. (Jake Thompson, Alec Asher, Zach Eflin and Ben Lively are among the candidates.)
Ellis would also serve as a stopgap to catching prospects Jorge Alfaro and Andrew Knapp, both of whom come with MLB upside but likely require additional minor league seasoning. If Ellis ultimately lands elsewhere, the free-agent market offers many other options for the Phils, as names like Kurt Suzuki, Alex Avila, Geovany Soto, Ryan Hanigan, Jeff Mathis and Chris Iannetta, among others, are all available this offseason.