Could the Royals Target Mark Ellis?
October 14, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Mark Ellis (14) fields a hit in the sixth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of the National League Championship Series baseball game at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
Heading into the offseason, the Royals have several holes to fill on their roster. Even if Ervin Santana is retained, the Royals could still need a couple of starting pitchers. Emilio Bonifacio played well as the starting second baseman after coming over from the Toronto Blue Jays in August, but may be better suited for the utility role that he has played throughout most of his career. The Royals could also use an upgrade in right over the David Lough/Justin Maxwell platoon.
For now, let us focus on second base. The top potential free agents at second consist of Robinson Cano and, after a steep drop off, Omar Infante. Cano is a pipe dream, so there is no point in discussing his availability. Infante is a bit more interesting; however, as he is coming off a career season, may end up being out of the Royals price range. This brings us down to the next tier of free agents, to the Brian Roberts and the Mark Ellis section.
Of the players in that area, Ellis may be the player that could fit best with the Royals. Not only has Ellis hit reasonably well over his career, producing a .265/.330/.390 batting line in his eleven major league seasons. In 2013, Ellis hit at a .270/.323/.351 clip, with a bit of power.
However, where Ellis truly excels is with the glove. Throughout his career, he has been one of the top defensive players at second base, rating highly in range factor and total zone runs. In fact, his 86 total zone runs saved is not only the best of any active second baseman, but is fifth all time. Ellis also has the second highest range factor per nine of any active second baseman, trailing only Placido Polanco. For those that prefer more traditional fielding statistics such as fielding percentage, Ellis ranks highly there as well, as his .991 fielding percentage is third amongst active players, and fifth all time at second.
What Ellis could provide the Royals is someone that could potentially slot in towards the bottom part of the lineup, and provide excellent defense up the middle. Paired with Alcides Escobar, the Royals infield defense would likely be much stronger than it had been in past seasons, helping the pitching staff. When coupled with the fact that Ellis likely would not command much in a contract, possibly leaving the Royals with the financial flexibility to upgrade other areas of the roster, it may turn out where he would be the best option for the Royals at second.
Mark Ellis may be 36 heading into next season, but on a one or two year contract, he could make sense for Kansas City. If nothing else, at least he is not Chris Getz.