OAKLAND -- The class with which Mark Ellis has exuded during 10 years with the A's was reciprocated by the organization in a bittersweet way on Thursday, when the club traded him to the Rockies to afford him the opportunity at an everyday job at second base.
In parting ways with their longest-tenured player, along with cash considerations to help offset the remaining $3 million of Ellis' 2011 salary, the A's received right-hander Bruce Billings and a player to be named.
The move was announced less than an hour before Thursday's scheduled contest with the Marlins. Ellis, who spent a chunk of the morning serving Root Beer floats as part of an A's annual charity event, learned of the news just shortly before and was forced to hold back tears behind the podium alongside general manager Billy Beane at a press conference.
"It's a tough day for me, being here as long as I have," an emotional Ellis said. "I had a good relationship with Billy, and everybody. It's a great organization that I've been proud to be a part of for 10 years. It's going to be tough. But there's a time in everybody's life where this stuff happens, you know. This just happens to be my time to move on and go help another organization."
Ellis, 34, was recently relegated to a utility role following a 15-day stint on the disabled list with a hamstring strain -- a time during which rookie Jemile Weeks made his mark in the A's infield and supplanted the notion that the future is now. Ellis made just two starts in seven games thereafter, both at first base.
While the Rockies got a second baseman in Mark Ellis, the A's got a strong-armed reliever in return. Here's some more information on RHP Bruce Billings:
|The Rockies drafted Billings out of San Diego State in the 30th round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft. A senior sign, Billings spent the first three-plus summers of his pro career as a starter.|
|In 2010, the Rockies started transitioning him to a relief role. He pitched well in the Arizona Fall League and earned a place on the Rockies' 40-man roster. The 25-year-old right-hander has spent nearly all of 2011 pitching in relief for Triple-A Colorado Springs. He did get called up and made his Major League debut on May 27, throwing two innings and allowing one run against the Cardinals.|
|Billings has an above-average fastball which has been up to 96 mph at times out of the bullpen, running the heater up in the strike zone. He throws an average slider without too much of a changeup, one of the reasons why he's now a reliever. Billings gets his highest marks for his makeup and work ethic and, as a 30th-round pick, has already overachieved.|
|-- Jonathan Mayo|
It was before Ellis was reinstated from the DL when Beane entered conversations with agent Jamie Murphy. All the while, Beane was insistent on not so much acting on his own club's benefit, but rather that of Ellis.
"We think very highly of Mark as a player," Beane said. "I think in looking at Mark's situation going forward, I think this was a unique opportunity for us to put Mark in a great place while that chance existed."
Ellis, who sported No. 14 with class and grace since his arrival from Kansas City in 2001, leaves as Oakland's career leader in games played by a second baseman with 1,021. He was hitting just .217 with one home run and 16 RBIs, but owns a .265 lifetime average and most recently finished the 2010 campaign with a .291 mark.
Ellis is now Troy Tulowitzki's new double-play partner and is expected to slide into the second slot of Colorado's lineup beginning on Friday when the Rockies host the Royals. Colorado entered Thursday with a 39-41 mark and 6 1/2 games behind the Giants in the National League West.
"They want me in there every day to play second base," said Ellis, who spoke to a Colorado executive briefly in the morning. "I'll go in there and just be me and go play, go do something to help the team win every day. That's the way I've looked at my career as a whole -- just do something every day to help the ballclub win."
Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd called Ellis "a winning player" and noted his interest in him surfaced over the winter. Ellis will join a handful of familiar faces in Colorado, including former A's players Jason Giambi and Huston Street, and will be near his hometown of Rapid City, S.D., along with his current home in Scottsdale, Ariz., he shares with wife, Sarah, and young children Briggs, Adelaide and Dylan.
"Obviously kind of mixed emotions on this, given what Mark has meant to the franchise over the years, not just on the field, but off the field," Beane said. "He's probably been as good of a representative as we've had since I've been here.
"But in the same sense, I'm also happy Mark's going to be going to a place that he's got a chance to play every day, a place that's close to his family in Arizona, and to a team that has a chance to win. At the end of the day, I think this is a great situation for Mark."
Ellis wouldn't rule out a return to the organization he's called home for a decade, be it later in his playing days or after his career has ended, saying that the club is "something that's special to me."
For now, though, the A's move forward with a struggling club that now includes just one member (Cliff Pennington) of the original starting infield on Opening Day three months ago. Moreover, Ellis represented the only player aside from Rich Harden to take part in postseason play with the A's, who last made the playoffs in 2006.
Thus, all of the focus deservingly remained on Ellis during the hastily called presser that lasted not more than 10 minutes. As a result, Beane did not indicate any kind of roll for Billings, who made just one appearance with the Rockies this season. The 25-year-old was 6-2 with a 4.47 ERA at Triple-A Colorado Springs.