The Dodgers infield is in flux. The only certainty is Adrian Gonzalez, who will man first base in 2014. The Dodgers do not have a third baseman right now. They signed Alexander Guerrero, who is projected to start at second base on Opening Day, yet Guerrero is still inexperienced as far as the Major League level and he isn’t guaranteed to be Yasiel Puig caliber right off the bat (pun intended). Guerrero will bring power and speed to the lineup, but Mark Ellis‘s solid defense will be hard to replace.
The Dodgers declined Mark Ellis’s contract option, and the second baseman is now a free agent. There’s no arguing that Mark Ellis is one of the best defensive second baseman to ever play the game. His air tight defense has been so important for the Dodgers since he signed with them in 2012. Ellis was signed by the Royals in 1999, but it was the Oakland Athletics where he made his career. Other than a brief 70-game stint with Colorado, Ellis found success as an A. He even hit 19 homeruns with 76 RBIs in 2007 for Oakland. He’s only hit 13 homeruns for the Dodgers over two seasons in Blue.
Mark Ellis hit a respectable .270 for the Dodgers in 2013, and he had 117 hits over 126 games played. Even though Mark Ellis may be slowing down a bit at age 36, his defensive talents could still be integral to an infield which will have Hanley’s sometimes wildness at shortstop and Guerrero’s inexperience. The Dodgers should bring back Ellis, if not to start occasionally than to be a part-time second baseman.
Even though Ellis’s versatility is lacking since he can only play second base, that would still be useful since Guerrero could play some shortstop if needed since Hanley’s health is always a concern especially after 2013. Hanley Ramirez and Mark Ellis both are sort of part-time players after each have battled injury. As long as the Dodgers do not let Hanley Ramirez play in the WBC, then hopefully Hanley will be able to unleash his talent through more games for the Dodgers in 2014. If Hanley had played in more than 86 games for the Dodgers in 2013, he would have been considered for M.V.P. All I know is that I want a full season of Hanley, and I think he should start at shortstop.
The real question mark is at third base. The Dodgers should also re-sign Juan Uribe to short up the
left side of the infield. Uribe’s Gold Glove caliber defense in 2013 really helped the Dodgers take control over their early season defensive issues. Uribe not only shined with the glove, but his bat came back as well. With the limited options on the free agent block for third base, Juan Uribe should be at the top of the Dodgers free agent shopping list. Uribe can even play shortstop or first base if needed, and I trust Uribe at first a lot more than someone like Michael Young.
Mark Ellis would be a great addition to the Dodger bench which is in major overhaul mode this winter. The bench was a weak point of the Dodgers last season, and I would like them to bolster their bench this offseason. Mark Ellis hit over .300 versus left-handed pitching last season, and he could be useful in pinch-hitting roles for Don Mattingly as well as a perfect defensive substitute when needed. Ellis is also a great home hitting player, and he hit .302 at Dodger Stadium last season.
Ellis made $5.25 million in 2013, and I don’t see a one-year $5 million deal as too much for MEllis. The Dodgers could also sign another shortstop, and they will have to sign a third base man *Juan Uribe*. As far as the rest of the bench, FedEx is there. Skip Schumaker and Michael Young have yet to sign either, but with Elian Herrera‘s departure from the organization after the Brewers claimed him off waivers, Schumaker’s versatility might be actually sought after by the Dodgers. Skip played in 44 games at second base for the Dodgers last season, and if Mark Ellis isn’t re-signed he could serve as a back-up in the infield as well.
The Dodgers might move on from Mark Ellis, and if they do it will be sad to see the slick fielding infielder go. Ellis has been one of the best second baseman in the game, and it has been a treat to watch him play for the Dodgers over the past two seasons.