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Requiem for Mark Ellis

Mark Ellis signed a 2-year deal worth $10-11 million (with options/incentives that could get it to three years and $18 mil) to stay with the Oakland Athletics. Why, Mr. (or Mrs.) Agent of Mark Ellis, would you allow your client to do this?

Do you not understand how valuable Mark Ellis is?

Mark Ellis’s is the best defensive second baseman in baseball. Chase Utley is close – and had an absolutely phenomenal 2008 – but Ellis has a better track record. Orlando Hudson is close, but had a below-average 2008. No one else is even comparable.

And Ellis’s offense isn’t awful. In fact, outside of the Oakland Coliseum Ellis has actually been pretty good:

Year Home Road
2008 .189/.291/.318 .282/.355/.435
2007 .257/.312/.431 .293/.357/.450
2006 .256/.321/.405 .243/.316/.367
2005 .294/.380/.433 .335/.387/.515

Even with his terrible line at home, he’s been a pretty average hitter: his career OPS+ is 99, and his two most recent seasons have been 110 and 90.

But in addition to this, Tom Tango has a fantastic point in a discussion over at the blog for The Book:

"Ellis loses nothing, nothing at all, by filing for free agency. Nothing.  In return for losing nothing by filing, he allows the A’s to sign him for 50 cents on the dollar.  What kind of trade is that?"

Tango is absolutely right: even if Ellis wanted to sign with the As – and was willing to take a hometown discount – why not file for free agency? While many teams do not properly identify/evaluate defense, some do. And there is certainly a demand for second basemen. Ellis could have hit the market, assessed his value, and then returned to the As for a below-market price. He almost certainly wouldn’t have made less than $10 million over two years, even with a hometown discount. He had nothing to lose and potentially millions to gain by filing for free agency, and he gains absolutely nothing by re-signing right now.

Alas, the SS Mark Ellis has sank.