The Los Angeles Dodgers announced today that they have signed free agent second baseman Mark Ellis to a 2 year/8.75 million dollar contract. Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times adds that the deal includes a 5.75 million dollar option for 2014 and 125,000 dollars per year in plate appearance based incentives.
Mark Ellis split 2011 between the Rockies and Athletics while having the worst offensive year of his career, posting a line of .248/.288/.346/.634. For his career though, he has a .266/.331/.397/.728 line, so he’s definitely a candidate to improve significantly offensively in 2012.
The bat isn’t where his value lies though, as the reason Ellis remains a desired commodity is his glove. With 100 DRS and 61.8 FRAA over his 9 year career, it’s easy to see that he has been elite defensively. However, despite another solid defensive campaign in 2011, he has slipped a little in his 30s, going from arguably the best defensive second baseman in baseball to simply good.
Ellis has bounce back potential in the coming years, but we need to remember that he’s 35 and right around the age where players tend to lose their skills. As such, there’s a decent chance that the Dodgers just signed a player with diminishing skills to a multi-year contract.
His offensive output was set around .255/.315/.375/.690 with about a .300 wOBA. Defensively, he’s marked as solid to good. Giving him a generous assumption of 500 PA per year (which meant factoring in the contractual plate appearance incentives), he figures to clock in around -10.5 batting, 1.5 baserunning, 3.5 defense, 16.5 replacement, and 1.5 position.
As the table shows, the deal will probably be about even financially for the team. However, there’s a reason that surplus value can’t be used by itself to evaluate whether a deal is good or not, as obviously signing a bunch of 1 WAR players to start for a team at 3 million dollars a piece nets surplus value but it certainly won’t lead to a winning team.
For the money, Ellis should be a passable option considering the alternatives were not exactly appealing, nor were there strong internal candidates. However, while Ellis should be better going forward than he was in 2011, he still figures to be below the league average threshold, making him a fringy or mediocre starter. Additionally, there’s the real risk that he goes through a collapse in skill before the contract is up. So while the finances might pan out okay, this has to rate as an average deal at best.