Ellis embraces two-year deal
Second baseman's new contract includes option for third season
OAKLAND -- About midway through the 2008 season, with free agency on the horizon, A's second baseman Mark Ellis admitted to occasionally thinking about what it'd be like to play elsewhere, perhaps in front of sellout crowds and for piles of free-agent cash.
A resident of the Phoenix area during the offseason, he even allowed that he'd thought about playing for the Diamondbacks, who are expected to part ways with their own free-agent second baseman, Orlando Hudson.
On Monday, after agreeing to a two-year deal -- with a club option for a third year -- to stay with the A's, Ellis downplayed those thoughts.
"Oakland always would have been my top choice," Ellis said on a conference call.
Ellis seemed reluctant to concede during the call that the choice was probably made quite a bit easier by the shoulder injury that ended his season. Ellis played in 117 games, his lowest tally since his rookie year in 2002, and he underwent surgery on Sept. 19.
Asked if he'd have explored free agency were he coming off a healthy and productive season, Ellis, who batted a career-low .233, hedged.
"I don't know," he said. "I'm not sure. That's something I'll never know."
Pressed on the subject, Ellis added: "I thought about [exploring free agency] a little bit. ... But even if I was healthy, if Oakland made a good offer, I probably would have stayed with the A's, anyway."
For a 31-year-old coming off what even Ellis called a "very disappointing" season, Oakland's offer was very good. The new contract reportedly will pay Ellis about $5 million in 2009 and close to $6 million in '10, with the '11 club option said to be worth another $6 million.
"Billy's always treated me very well," Ellis said of A's general manager Billy Beane. "Oakland's a place I've always been comfortable. ... It would have been a good year to be a second baseman in free agency this year, but there was no reason to go out and look around. I just wanted to go ahead and get it done.
"They made a good offer, a very fair offer."
Ellis led Major League second basemen in fielding last year with a .993 fielding percentage, and he now has a .989 mark in his career, which is fourth best in Major League history among second basemen with 650 or more games.
He's a .265 career hitter with 70 home runs and 308 RBIs in 765 games over six big league seasons -- all with the A's -- and he joins third baseman Eric Chavez, who is signed through 2010 with a club option for '11, as the only Oakland player signed beyond the '09 season.
Also a Phoenix-area resident, Chavez, too, is coming off shoulder surgery. Chavez's surgery was in August, and he's said he expects to be ready for full-blown baseball activities in December. Ellis won't be allowed to throw a baseball until at least mid-January, but he visited his surgeon on Monday and liked what he heard.
"I feel really good," Ellis said. "He said for being a month out, it's outstanding."
The rebuilding A's were anything but outstanding while sliding far out of contention in the second half of the 2008 season, and Ellis was realistic when asked when he thought the team's youth movement might produce a contender.
"We'd have to come a long way from where we were last season," Ellis said. "But at the same time, you never go into a season thinking you're not going to be competitive. You just can't think like that."
Ellis also said he'd welcome the addition of "some pop" to the lineup, but in the next breath he said, "All of the guys here have to be accountable, too. We all have to have better years next year."
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.