Dodgers get help at 2B with Mark Ellis
The Los Angeles Dodgers have finalized their signing of free-agent second baseman Mark Ellis to a two-year, $8.75 million contract with a $5.75 million club option for 2014 after Ellis passed a physical exam.
Ellis, who will take over as the Dodgers' everyday second baseman, will receive base salaries of $2.5 million in 2012 and $5.25 million in 2013. Each year, he also will receive $25,000 for each of 500, 525, 550, 575 and 600 plate appearances. The $8.75 total guarantee on the deal includes a $1 million buyout on the option year if the Dodgers decline to exercise it.
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Ellis said the fact Dodgers owner Frank McCourt has put the bankrupt Dodgers up for sale, at least partially resolving the swirling uncertainty about the future of the franchise, made him more amenable to signing with them.
"I would be lying if I said (it) wasn't (a factor), when that stuff came out ... that the team was going to be sold," Ellis said. "The Dodgers are a very good brand, and they are going to be appealing to a lot of people. That is why the second year was important, to (be) in there after a new ownership takes over so you can really enjoy your time there."
Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti had sought an everyday-caliber player to man the position for 2012 after the Dodgers used seven different starters there in 2011, primarily utility infielders Jamey Carroll and Aaron Miles. The Dodgers already lost Carroll, who last week signed a two-year, $7 million deal with the Minnesota Twins. Miles remains a free agent, and the Dodgers have some interest in re-signing him as a backup infielder.
Ellis, 34, is considered a solid defensive second baseman who will combine with gifted first baseman James Loney to give the Dodgers a strong right side of the infield and strengthen the overall defense up the middle with flashy shortstop Dee Gordon and two-time Gold Glove center fielder Matt Kemp.
"As we looked back on last season ... we felt that defense at second base was one of our weaknesses," Colletti said. "We decided to try to rectify that with somebody who can play there a majority of the season and also be a little bit of a run producer. We think it is an upgrade from where we were a year ago, and that is what led us to do it."
Ellis was a first-time free agent and said it was important to him to sign early in the winter if possible.
"I think everybody learned a lesson, watching over the past couple of years," he said. "I watched a couple of other free-agent markets where people waited around, waited around, waited around, and maybe turned down some offers early in the offseason, then come mid-January or February they didn't have a job yet. That definitely wasn't a position I wanted to put myself in, so when a good opportunity arose, we jumped on it."
Offensively, Ellis probably will be a bottom-of-the-order hitter. He has a career on-base percentage of .331 with some power -- he hit a career-high 19 home runs for the Oakland A's in 2007 but hasn't hit more than 12 in any season since then.
He also had 24 doubles each of the past two seasons.
Ellis hit .248 overall in 2011, but his average jumped to .274 following a June 30 trade to the Colorado Rockies. He played 70 games for the Rockies after spending his entire 10-year career prior to that with the A's. His best offensive season was 2005, when he hit .316 with 21 doubles, 13 homers, 52 RBIs and a .384 OBP.
"My first half of the season in Oakland was not good," Ellis said. "It is something I'm not proud of. People have always considered me more of a defensive player, and I take a lot of pride in my defense, but I like to help the team offensively as well."
The Dodgers also secured a backup catcher, announcing on Tuesday the signing of veteran catcher Matt Treanor to a one-year contract. Treanor's deal carries a $1 million guarantee, including an $850,000 salary for 2012 and a $150,000 buyout on a $950,000 club option for 2013, according to a source.
"Catching is more of a defensive position for us this year," Colletti said Tuesday before Treanor's signing was announced. "We're not really intrigued with the free-agent market where we would get some offense from somebody."
Treanor is an Orange County native and a Mater Dei High School graduate. He has played eight major league seasons, all of them as a backup catcher, for four clubs and has a career average of .225 with 16 home runs and 119 RBIs. His career high for games caught was 81 with the Texas Rangers in 2010.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.