A.J. Ellis is in his seventh year with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but the catcher is in the unique position in the sense that he’s only played over 44 games in two of the seasons — 2012 and 2013. In his tenure as a full-time catcher, Ellis has developed the reputation of being a cerebral player who has command and respect of the pitching staff.
Ellis was a free agent during the off-season and the Dodgers avoided arbitration by signing the 33-year-old catcher to a one-year, $3.55 million contract; he’s also eligible for salary arbitration in the next two years. A one-year deal doesn’t translate to much security and considering Ellis could receive a raise in the forthcoming off-seasons, his days with the Dodgers may conceivably come to an end with the 2014 season.
Though there may be some underlying uncertainty regarding his future, Ellis hopes he’s garnered enough respect that may lead to a new contract, but also is aware he must produce, according to Steve Dilbeck and Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times:
You hope you’ve created enough capital with the ballclub that they respect you, and the way you play the game,” Ellis said. “I know the coaches respect that. I also know this is a place where they come to win, and I know it comes down to production.”
Ellis played in just seven games this season before undergoing surgery to repair the meniscus in his left knee. After missing five weeks, he returned to lineup Wednesday and went 0-for-4, which has his season batting average at a lowly .143. While Ellis has struggled at the plate in a small sample size, he looks at the team’s record on days he’s behind the plate to measure his value:
At the end of the day, the most important stat is, what is the team’s record on the day I catch?” Ellis said. “That’s where I feel you know you have made an impact.”
When Ellis was on the disabled list, the Dodgers looked at Drew Butera, Tim Federowicz and eventually Miguel Olivo to provide any sort of stability. Federowicz struggled, Butera also failed to make much noise before showing some signs of life as of late, and Olivo peaked early before tailing off.
It initially appeared as though Olivo was in line to supplant Butera as the backup catcher once Ellis was reinstated from the DL, but Butera managed to stave him off and Olivo was optioned back to the minors. Assuming Ellis will stay healthy for the remainder of the season, which is a safe bet considering his track record, there will be plenty of opportunities for the catcher to earn a lucrative new deal.
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