A.J. Ellis has long established himself as one of the most likeable players on the Dodgers — just ask Clayton Kershaw. But the Dodgers didn’t decide to tender Ellis a contract for 2015 based solely on personality.
“It was based on the totality of his contributions to the team,” said Dodger general manager Farhan Zaidi, about 90 minutes after the Dodgers retained the rights to Ellis and seven other arbitration-eligible players. “We still believes he gives a quality at-bat. He’s a quality defensive catcher.”
Zaidi said that the Dodgers didn’t consult Kershaw specifically about the Ellis decision, but they were mindful of the ace’s admiration of the catcher.
“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.”
Though Ellis slumped to a .191 batting average in 2014, he was injured most of the year — yet still gave quality at-bats with a walk-strikeout ratio of almost exactly 1:1, something that Zaidi didn’t think “should be undersold.”
At the same time, don’t necessarily pencil in Ellis to catch 120, 130 games in 2015.
“I don’t necessarily view the catching position as one where you have to declare a de facto starter,” Zaidi said. “You can have a tandem.”
Ellis was the night’s headline grabber. Aside from the acquisition of Chris Heisey, there was little new to report on the outfield front. While staying away from specifics, Zaidi acknowledged there could be more activity.
“One thing I’ll say is, you look at the landscape of baseball as a whole, and one of the things that’s really scarce is offense — and we’re fortunate to have a surplus of really good offensive outfielders,” said Zaidi. “So obviously there’s going to be some demand and some interest in those outfielders.”
In the meantime, Zaidi noted that the Dodgers are trying to improve their depth in all areas, taking note of, yes, team chemistry in the process. Heisey’s skill set appealed to the new administration, but so did his approach.
“We’re not trying just to put together a collection of individuals,” Zaidi said. “We believe in putting together a team … a team that’s all pulling in the same direction.”
Darwin Barney, the only one of the eight players retained by the Dodgers tonight who actually agreed to terms on a 2015 contract, is similarly appreciated. Zaidi said that while Barney is a Gold Glover at second base, it’s also relevant that he can play “an average big-league shortstop.”
It goes without saying that the Dodgers will continue to explore their options as they look to replace Hanley Ramirez. After all, the Dodgers are exploring their options in every facet, big and small. Tonight’s pool of non-tendered players only adds to that.
“There are some pitchers with some high ceilings coming off injuries, rehabbing,” Zaidi said. “We’re going to take a look and see if there’s a match.”