Of the eight players the Los Angeles Dodgers could tender, A.J. Ellis was the name many wondered most about. The 33 year old suffered two injuries last season that limited him to 93 games and he largely struggled at plate.
Also going against Ellis’ favor is his subpar ranking in pitch framing, which president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman valued during his time with the Tampa Bay Rays. However, Ellis had Clayton Kershaw backing his return and that certainly carries some weight.
Thus, Ellis was one of seven players tendered by the Dodgers and the two parties can now either agree to terms on a new contract or go to arbitration. Although Ellis hit below .200 last season, Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi was cognizant of the influence and comfort level he has with the pitching staff, according to Jon Weisman of Dodger Insider:
The fact that (Ellis) has good relationships with the staff, that’s not an intangible,” Zaidi said. “That’s a tangible effect on his performance in the field.”
While Ellis didn’t become a free agent on Tuesday, Zaidi stopped short of labeling him the full-time starter and hinted at using multiple catchers in 2015, via Eric Stephen of True Blue LA:
I don’t necessarily view the catching position where you have to declare a de facto starter. You could have a tandem of guys,” Zaidi said. “In Oakland we had three guys who kind of rotated through that spot, though it’s different when you have DH at-bats at your disposal as well.”
Last season, Derek Norris started 93 games behind the plate for Oakland, John Jaso made 47 starts and Stephen Vogt made eight.
Kershaw was the most vocal, at least publicly, for Ellis to return, but pitching coach Rick Honeycutt has also spoke highly of the catcher. Drew Butera was also tendered by the Dodgers and barring a trade, he may complete the catching tandem Zaidi believes in utilizing.
Last season the duo combined to hit .189/.295/.271 with six home runs and 39 RBIs in 137 starts; Tim Federowciz and Miguel Olivo also started games as catcher for the Dodgers. A career .242/.343/.351 hitter, Ellis and the Dodgers avoided arbitration last year when he signed a one-year, $3.55 million contract; MLB Trade Rumors projected a $3.88 million salary for him in 2015.