When Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw is able to return from the disabled list, he might find an unfamiliar face behind the plate. The Dodgers decided to swap backup catchers with the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday, acquiring Carlos Ruiz in exchange for A.J. Ellis.
From an on-field standpoint, the deal isn’t all that interesting. Ruiz should be an upgrade over Ellis at the plate. The 37-year-old Ruiz has hit .261/.368/.352 over 193 plate appearances this season. That’s a significant upgrade over Ellis’ .194/.285/.161 slash line. It’s assumed Ruiz will slot in behind Yasmani Grandal on the depth chart in L.A. Ellis will likely assume a backup role behind Cameron Rupp.
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In this case, the off-the-field ramifications of the deal are far more intriguing. While Ellis wasn’t a strong contributor over the past few seasons, he was viewed as a clubhouse leader in Los Angeles.
Couldn’t ask for a better teammate or person in general than @AJEllis17. I’m genuinely happy to have had the opportunity to play with him.
Considering the personalities and stories of unrest that have emerged from the team over the past few years, losing Ellis could prove to be tough internally.
On top of that, Ellis was viewed as one of Kershaw’s best friends on the team. He had been considered Kershaw’s personal catcher when Don Mattingly was in town, but things changed after the team acquired Grandal. Ellis still started a fair amount of games Kershaw pitched, but Grandal started seeing more time with the lefty.
Again, on the field, this shouldn’t play a huge role. Kershaw will likely continue to be the best pitcher on the planet even though he’s not throwing to Ellis anymore. His reaction to the deal, however, could prove to be interesting. Baseball is a business, and the Dodgers don’t have to cater to Kershaw’s needs, but it’s clear the two were exceptionally close.
Ellis said Kershaw was “shocked. We both cried.”
— Ken Gurnick (@kengurnick) August 25, 2016
For what it’s worth, Ellis often spoke glowingly about the Dodgers’ organization and how much he loved being part of the franchise. It’s clear he’s disappointed to be leaving the club.
AJ Ellis: “It’s a really sad day for me,” and added the trade “rips your heart out.” He looks crushed. Absolutely crushed.
— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughTimes) August 25, 2016
With the trade, Ruiz becomes one of the many former Phillies to have joined the Dodgers in recent seasons.
Golden Age Phillies who ended up in L.A.: Utley, Rollins, Victorino, Blanton, Ruiz, Davey Lopes…I’m sure I’m missing others.
— Michael Baumann (@MJ_Baumann) August 25, 2016
That has no bearing on the team’s on-field performance (are you sensing a theme here?), but it’s fun to point out the Dodgers have essentially become Phillies West.
While it’s sad to see a player as respected as Ellis pushed to another organization, that’s the way the game works. The Dodgers wouldn’t have made the deal if they didn’t believe Ruiz was an upgrade, and that should be the club’s focus as they march toward October.
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