In the Carlos Ruiz trade, we lost a fan favorite from the last decade. The Dodgers felt similarly, parting with beloved veteran backup catcher A.J. Ellis, who is now a Philadelphia Phillie.
Here in Philadelphia, when we heard that the Phillies traded Carlos Ruiz, us fans felt devastated. Chooch was a Phillie for over a decade, behind the plate for some of the biggest moments in Phillies history. He caught four no-hitters, including Roy Halladay’s in Game One of the 2010 NLDS and Cole Hamels’s in his final Phillies start.
And of course, he caught the final pitch of the 2008 World Series, leaping into Brad Lidge’s arms after the final strikeout. Harry Kalas’s radio call of the final pitch will echo in my head as long as I live.
While we were grieving the loss of Ruiz and celebrating the career of Ruiz, fans of the Dodgers had a similar feeling. A.J. Ellis was a part of the organization since 2003, making his big-league debut in 2008.
L.A. ace Clayton Kershaw felt especially “shocked” by the news, according to Andy McCullough of the L.A. Times. Ellis was Kershaw’s personal catcher, and the two shared a tearful embrace when news of the trade broke.
If Ellis’ relationship with Kershaw shows anything, it’s that the Phillies have another experienced game-caller behind the plate. Phillies GM Matt Klentak was adamant about getting Ellis back in the deal, in part so the young Phillies catching prospects continue to get minor-league at-bats.
Klentak said Eliis “is a true professional. It’s never easy for a guy who has been in one place his whole career to be told out of the blue that it’s time to go. A.J. is determined and excited about contributing to the Phillies.”
While Ellis is a true veteran presence behind the plate, he’s struggled at the plate this season. In 53 games with the Dodgers before the trade, Ellis had a hitting split of .194/.285/.252 with 13 RBI. According to Baseball Reference, Ellis had a oWAR of -0.4.
Ellis’s best season came in 2012, where he produced 3.5 fWAR in 133 games for the Dodgers. By that standard, he was the best hitter and second-best player on the team all season. Ellis had an OPS of .786 with 13 home runs that year.
In his Phillies debut Sunday, Ellis came through when it counted, hitting a bases-loaded double to drive in the winning run. He also helped Vincent Velasquez through several jams in his five innings.
Ellis’s stay in Philadelphia will most likely be a short one. His contract expires after this season, and it seems unlikely the Phillies would resign Ellis. They have Cameron Rupp penciled in as the starting catcher in 2017, and Jorge Alfaro and Andrew Knapp will battle for the backup role. Having Ellis in there as any more than a spring training invite would only complicate the situation.
However, the Phillies still have an experienced backstop for the rest of the 2016 season. Ellis will serve a similar role to what Ruiz did this season, relieving Rupp while adding a veteran presence behind the plate.