While we definitely aren’t looking at great payroll increases for the Brewers in 2014, that doesn’t mean they have to be dormant during free agency. Teams that can make cost-efficient moves are often the winners of the winter season, not the ones who make the big splash (just ask the Angels). While the Brewers are not expected to be contenders next season, making efficient moves (and a little luck) could put them in a better position to reach a Wild Card game come October.
Mark Ellis is the epitome of everything that is undervalued. This, ironically, led to his release by the
U.S Government Dodgers. Despite combing for 5 WAR over the past two seasons, the Dodgers saw no reason to retain, or at least attempt to trade, the veteran second baseman. Ellis’ salary for next year was only going to be 5.75M had the Dodgers picked it up. This leaves Ellis as a right handed second baseman who is unlikely to command anything substantial in salary.
Scooter Gennett will go into the 2014 season, at bare minimum, the strong side of a platoon. Gennett’s struggles against left handed pitching have been well-documented. Ellis is an above average hitter for all positions against left handers posting a .276/.348/.429 line against them and a 110 wRC+. His line against lefties last season was .282/.311/.412 with a 112 wRC+. Despite his age, Ellis has still shown that he can handle left handers at an above league average rate.
Another plus to Ellis’ game is his stout defense. Gennett has never been considered anything more than average at best (and poor at worst) defensively. Ellis has not had a year in which he had negative defensive value. In fact, the last two years he has been worth a combined 19.6 runs defensively. This would allow Roenicke to switch out Gennett late in games to improve the defense while still having a solid offensive player in the lineup.
Ellis could also provide some roster flexibility as well. While he has only played a handful of innings at the Major League level at third base, nothing from him tells me he couldn’t handle playing the position. Remember, Craig Counsell was used as a third baseman towards the end of his career, and his arm was well below average by that point.
Ellis in Milwaukee almost makes too much sense to happen. He’ll come cheap, is a great platoon partner for Gennett, and will give Roenicke some roster flexibility. There will be other teams jockeying for his services, and promises of a starting job could keep him out of Milwaukee. However, if the market for Ellis is below my expectations, expect Doug Melvin to make a run at the veteran.