If you haven't been following, second base has been a bit of an issue for the Colorado Rockies this season. Some wondered whether they'd be willing to give Brad Emaus another shot after his stint with the Mets, but it appears they're going in a different direction: Oakland's Mark Ellis.
The Athletics twitter feed announced the deal just over an hour ago, which sends Ellis and cash considerations to Colorado in exchange for 25-year-old reliever Bruce Billings and a player to be named later. Ellis has roughly $3 million in salary remaining for this season, and according to Troy Renck, the Rockies will only be covering $1 million of it.
Ellis was Oakland's primary second baseman from 2002 until now with the exception of an injury-ruined 2004 season, but he had already lost his job as the club's starter to Jemile Weeks a couple weeks ago after another injury. Now he gets to take over the same role in Colorado, where the Rockies have been playing a miserable game of musical chairs with the likes of Chris Nelson, Eric Young Jr., Jonathan Herrera, Jose Lopez and Alfredo Amezaga.
The Rockies appear to have made a solid deal here, too, if you believe that Ellis' bat can bounce back. The 34-year-old has struggled to the tune of a .217/.253/.290 line in 233 plate appearances this season, but he hit .291 with a .358 on-base percentage last season as Oakland's starting second baseman. Hitting has never been his calling card anyways, though. Ellis has generally provided most of his value through quality defense at second, and he continues to be an above-average defender at the position. So even though it's not clear what kind of offensive upgrade he'll provide, he should be able to bring a consistently above-average glove to the table- that should make groundballing pitchers like Jhoulys Chacin, Ubaldo Jimenez and Aaron Cook very happy.
And while his offense isn't likely to take off, there are reasons to believe that he can be a contributor with the bat as well. ZiPS projects Ellis to improve to .245/.305/.361 through the rest of the season, and that's assuming he would stay in Oakland. Not only is Ellis moving to the easier league, but he's getting away from one of the biggest pitcher's parks in the majors to move to Coors, which obviously has a reputation of boosting offensive performance.
Considering the price, which is essentially $1 million, Billings and the PTBNL, I think it's a worthy risk for the Rockies to take given their place on the win spectrum. They're still getting him for half of the season, and while Billings has potential as a middle reliever, it's hard to fret about trading a 25-year-old relief pitcher that doesn't really project as a relief ace-type of guy. Billings can bring the heat, with a fastball that touches 94, but his secondary stuff doesn't seem to stand out and his command is average at best. He's presumably going to move from Triple-A Colorado Springs to Triple-A Sacramento in the Athletics organization, but he could prove to be a savvy pick-up if he can improve his slider, which rarely flashes better than average. The wild card here is obviously the quality of the PTBNL, but assuming that it's not a significant piece (which remains to seen), I like this deal for Colorado.
When you're able to address a clear need without spending big money or giving up top prospects, you usually can come away from the deal satisfied. I think that the Rockies are in that position here.