Sometimes when a player moves on from the Dodgers I am indifferent. It’s just part of the game. When Nick Punto and Skip Schumaker left for other teams this winter I wasn’t really too upset at all. It’s not like they had been with the Dodgers for a long time or had contributed in some extremely memorable way. I mean sure they played admirably especially when a slew of starters were injured, but I won’t be shedding a tear when I hear that Punto will be playing in Oakland next season.
Mark Ellis is a different story.
The veteran second baseman, arguably one of the best to ever man the position, has reportedly signed with the St. Louis Cardinals. Not only am I a little sad to see him go, but to see him play in red next season for the very same culprits who defeated the Dodgers in the NLCS this past season is rather irritating. I can understand that players must move on and sign with other teams if not offered a comparable deal from their current team, but being it St. Louis just gets under my skin for some reason.
We pretty much knew that Mark Ellis was not coming back for the Dodgers after they signed Cuban infielder Alexander Guerrero in October. Yet there was a part of me that hoped the Dodgers would re-sign Ellis to play off the bench. The Dodgers did not exercise Mark’s $5.75 million option for 2014, and they instead paid the $1 million buyout. It seems like spending just under $6 million for Ellis in order to back-up an inexperienced Guerrero at second base wasn’t worth it for the Dodgers. The Dodgers have now lost a chunky group of utility guys including Punto, Schumaker, Ellis, and Jerry Hairston Jr. who announced his retirement this month.
I’m sure Oakland fans felt even more saddened to see MEllis leave after many years as an Athletic. The 36-year old spent two seasons with the Dodgers, and he really solidified the middle infield for the team during that span. Last season he batted .270 with 6 homeruns, 48 RBIs, and 117 hits in 126 games. The previous season he played less games due to a freakish and scary injury sustained on a takeout slide which caused him to nearly lose his leg.
Mark Ellis, although aging, is still a fine defensive player. In fact, he only made a total of nine errors at second base over his two seasons with the Dodgers. While Alexander Guerrero is projected to be much more powerful with the bat, he still needs some time at second base this offseason and during Spring Training in order to be ready for Opening Day. I can almost guarantee that Guerrero will not be close to MEllis as far as defense at second. Ellis was one of the best second baseman I have seen play the position. He’s truly a rock out there, and even at 36 can turn a double play with the best of them.
We wish Mark Ellis the best of luck, but losing him will definitely open a hole in the middle infield. While Guerrero is slated to play second, the Dodgers still need some bench members who can play around the infield especially at shortstop and second base. The bigger question perhaps is, who will Don Mattingly now bat second in the lineup?