St. Louis Cardinals announce NLDS roster; former Dodger Mark Ellis is left off.

Don Mattingly

St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny (right) jumped the gun in announcing his NLDS roster before Dodgers manager Don Mattingly. (Associated Press photo)

Mark Ellis won’t get the chance to face his former team, as the veteran second baseman was left off the St. Louis Cardinals’ National League Division Series roster.

Ellis, 37, is batting .180 this season, his first in St. Louis.

Three veterans — Ellis, A.J. Pierzynski and Jason Motte – were all omitted as the Cardinals opted to bring a younger team to Los Angeles. Rosters are due tomorrow morning, and the Dodgers are expected to announce their roster closer to the deadline.

Here’s how the Cardinals’ roster breaks down:
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Daily Distractions: Reviewing the Dodgers’ unsurprising off-season.

Brian Wilson

Reliever Brian Wilson re-signing with the Dodgers might constitute the biggest surprise of the off-season. (Getty Images)

Accountability matters here, so I decided to take a look back at a little list I made in October.

In it, I ranked the Dodgers’ 12 in-house free agents in order of their likelihood of re-signing. Here’s how I ranked them:

12. Edinson Volquez
11. Mark Ellis
10. Chris Capuano
9. Jerry Hairston Jr.
8. Skip Schumaker
7. Brian Wilson
6. Michael Young
5. Carlos Marmol
4. Nick Punto
3. Ricky Nolasco
2. Juan Uribe
1. J.P. Howell

In light of Marmol’s contract with Marlins — he agreed to terms yesterday — that leaves only Capuano still unsigned among the 12 players.

Starting at the top of the list, it came as little surprise that the Dodgers re-signed Howell and Uribe. Nolasco was offered four years and $49 million from the Minnesota Twins. Since not many 31-year-old pitchers with a career history of below-average ERAs in the National League get four-year contracts from American League teams, Nolasco did the logical thing and signed the contract.

The Dodgers reached out to Punto about re-signing, but the Oakland A’s wanted him more. Billy Beane made a quick push and signed Punto for one year and a guaranteed $3.25 million. The Dodgers really didn’t have a chance to be interested in Marmol; they were more interested in Wilson and Chris Perez for set-up roles, and both pitchers accepted the Dodgers’ offers in December.

Young retired. So did Hairston. Schumaker and Ellis were swept away by better offers from a pair of NL Central teams, the Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals, respectively.

Volquez got a one-year, $5 million contract from Pittsburgh, where he’ll compete for the fifth starter’s job on a good Pirates team. Not unexpected.

Come to think of it, as busy as it was, the off-season mostly stayed true to expectations. Clayton Kershaw re-signed. Don Mattingly got a new, longer contract. The Yankees threw a ton of money at Masahiro Tanaka.

In Uribe and Howell, the Dodgers re-signed the two players who were the best fits to re-sign. The Dodgers wanted a durable veteran to fill the number-four starter’s job on a short-term contract; Dan Haren is a durable veteran who was content with a short-term contract. Haren’s history shows less risk than that of Nolasco, who got the longer-term deal he wanted from the Twins.

Ned Colletti reached outside the organization for bullpen help from Jamey Wright and Chris Perez. Neither could be considered a real surprise: Perez replaces Ronald Belisario, who was non-tendered in his final arbitration year, and Wright becomes the long reliever the Dodgers never really had in 2013.

Even though the final bill hasn’t come in yet, the cost of building the Dodgers’ bullpen is already staggering. Together, Dodger relievers will earn roughly $26 million in actual salary in 2014. That doesn’t include deferred signing bonus payments, salaries for players with 0-3 years’ service time (such as Paco Rodriguez, Chris Withrow and Jose Dominguez), or the actual closer — Kenley Jansen, who has yet to re-sign. That’s an eye-popping number.

 

The biggest individual surprise might be Wilson, who drew interest from the Yankees and Tigers — two teams that expect to contend in 2014 — to be their closer. Instead, he chose to be baseball’s highest-paid eighth-inning man in Los Angeles for $10 million and a player option for 2015.

For a team that reached the NLCS in 2013, no major changes were needed. We got none.

My spring training preview runs tomorrow.

Some bullet points for a Grenadian Independence Day:

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Daily Distractions: Mark Ellis: ‘I have no hard feelings toward the Dodgers.’

Mark Ellis

Mark Ellis signed a one-year, $5.25 million contract with the St. Louis Cardinals on Dec. 16. (Associated Press photo)

The Dodgers are still looking for a veteran infielder who can play second base with 13 days to go until pitchers and catchers report to spring training. Michael Young said his preferred destination is Los Angeles — if he doesn’t retire — and Young seems to be the Dodgers’ top choice for the job as well. Here’s my story from last night.

If Young chooses to retire, the Dodgers have a pair of veteran options in Chone Figgins and Brendan Harris who will attend spring training as non-roster invitees. Of course, the Dodgers wouldn’t be in this position if Nick Punto and Skip Schumaker hadn’t spurned the Dodgers in free agency to sign with Oakland and Cincinnati, respectively.

You might as well throw Mark Ellis into that group as well. He seemed destined to land a starting gig somewhere after a productive 2013 campaign at the plate and in the field. When the Dodgers signed 28-year-old Cuban infielder Alexander Guerrero to a four-year contract, Ellis’ best opportunity to start no longer resided in Los Angeles.

Yet after the Dodgers declined his $5.75 million option, Ellis signed a one-year contract with St. Louis for $5.25 million. The Cardinals, like the Dodgers, already have a second baseman of the future (Kolten Wong) who has a chance to be the Opening Day starter in 2014. It’s far from certain that Ellis will be able to extend his streak of nine straight seasons with at least 100 starts at second base in St. Louis.

Ellis was willing to accept that uncertainty with the Cardinals. Why didn’t it work out with the Dodgers?

“Things happened,” he said Sunday in Anaheim. “It wasn’t a hard decision for me. I’ll leave it at that.”

Ellis said the Dodgers offered him a one-year contract. So did the Cardinals, but “it wasn’t hard to choose one offer from the other” and “role had nothing to do with anything,” he said. In other words, the decision was based on money.

Even if the Dodgers’ monetary offer could have been considered an insult, Ellis would never say so. He’s not that type of person. For what it’s worth: Ellis didn’t consider the offer an insult.

“I have no hard feelings toward the Dodgers,” he said.

Some bullet points for an International Holocaust Remembrance Day:
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Report: Mark Ellis signs with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Mark Ellis

Dodgers second baseman Mark Ellis dives for a ground ball in a June game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. He reportedly agreed to a contract with the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday. (Associated Press photo)

According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the St. Louis Cardinals have agreed to sign Mark Ellis, pending a physical.

Ellis started 206 games for the Dodgers over the last two seasons, batting .264/.328/.357 and finishing in the top five in the National League in fielding percentage at second base both years.

In 2013, Ellis batted .270/.323/.351 with six home runs and 48 RBIs in 126 games. He batted .250 (10 for 40) in the playoffs.

Ellis’ departure came as little surprise after the Dodgers signed free agent infielder Alexander Guerrero to a four-year, $28 million contract in October. Guerrero might not be ready to be the Dodgers’ everyday second baseman at the beginning of next season, but such a long-term commitment left little room for Ellis in the Dodgers’ infield the next four years — particularly after the Dodgers locked up third baseman Juan Uribe on Saturday.

Though Ellis’ offense can be replaced, the Dodgers will undoubtedly miss his defense. Ellis ranks fourth all-time in UZR/150 among major-league second baseman who have played at least 4,000 innings. He is second all-time in total defensive runs saved and UZR.

Ellis’ humble persona also played well in a full clubhouse of superstars.

Since the Dodgers have no real insurance if Guerrero falters, a veteran with major-league experience at second base becomes high on their off-season wish list. Brendan Harris, who signed a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training Nov. 18, could also figure into the major-league team’s plans.

Daily Distractions: How Ricky Nolasco’s departure might have helped the Dodgers.

Ricky Nolasco

Ricky Nolasco signed a four-year deal with the Minnesota Twins. (Associated Press photo)

When the Chicago Cubs signed former Dodgers pitcher Edwin Jackson to a four-year, $52 million contract in January, it set a precedent for comparable pitchers that is still being used to this day.

Take last week, when Ricky Nolasco was negotiating with the Minnesota Twins. Writes the St. Paul Pioneer Press:

Having mentioned from the start the four-year, $52 million deal Edwin Jackson signed last winter with the Cubs, [Nolasco's agent Matt] Sosnick had established the benchmark.

“[Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony] said, ‘I’m not saying the fourth year can’t get done. I’m just saying we’re not prepared to do it right now,’ ” Sosnick said. “They then came back and said, ‘We know you’re looking for an Edwin Jackson deal. Is there much of a discount?’ We said no.”

More back and forth ensued, all of it cordial and professional. The Twins eventually came up to four years at $12 million per season.

Nolasco was one of the better starting pitchers in this year’s free agent crop. The Dodgers dipped their toe into the market to sign Dan Haren last week, and general manager Ned Colletti didn’t rule out adding another starting pitcher. But the Dodgers, with two spots for Haren, Chad Billingsley and Josh Beckett as it stands now, aren’t desparate. Colletti is loathe to sign any player who would cost a 2014 first-round draft pick — Hiroki Kuroda, Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana fall into that category — and they don’t need an ace. They might make an exception for Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, but Nolasco and Jackson won’t be used as comparables if and when Tanaka begins negotiating with MLB teams. That reportedly won’t happen until January.

The Arizona Diamondbacks need an ace. Their general manager, Kevin Towers, isn’t opposed to sacrificing a draft pick to sign one. The San Diego Padres need a starter too, but they’re more likely to go the trade route — particularly after Nolasco’s contract might have pushed some eligible free-agent starters out of their price range. If you’re the Dodgers, this is all good news.

Some bullet points for a Wednesday afternoon:

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Ranking the Dodgers’ twelve in-house free agents.

J.P.  Howell

Dodgers reliever J.P. Howell became a free agent on Thursday. (Getty Images)

As noted here this morning, the Dodgers have 12 in-house free agents after they declined the options on second baseman Mark Ellis and pitcher Chris Capuano.

Not all 12 will be back, but here’s an educated guess at the likelihood of each player returning to the Dodgers, ranked in order of least likely to most:
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Daily Distractions: Let the free agency period begin.

Red Sox fans

Boston Red Sox fans celebrate the start of free agency Wednesday night. (Associated Press photo)

The World Series is over, making ringbearers of the Red Sox and free agents of dozens of players around baseball.

The Dodgers will have at least 10: Ricky Nolasco, Michael Young, Juan Uribe, Carlos Marmol, Jerry Hairston, Edinson Volquez, Skip Schumaker, Nick Punto, J.P. Howell and Brian Wilson. Per MLB rules, the Dodgers have exclusive negotiating rights with each player up until midnight Eastern Time Monday, after which all are free to sign with any club.

Sometime within the next five days, general manager Ned Colletti and staff must ultimately decide whether or not to extend these players a qualifying offer, a guaranteed contract for 2014 equal to the average salary of the highest-paid 125 players. This year, that’s $14.1 million.

The potential risk every team faces in extending a qualifying offer is that the player will accept the offer and receive more money than he would by testing the open market. The potential reward is twofold: 1, you might re-sign the player at a discount compared to his open-market value; 2, if the player doesn’t accept the qualifying offer and signs elsewhere, your team receives a first-round draft pick in 2014 from the team that does sign the player.

Of the Dodgers’ 10 free agents, Nolasco is the only viable candidate to receive a qualifying offer. He made $11.5 million last year. What’s another $2.6 million? That’s the, um, $2.6 million question that’s been floating around the front offices at Chavez Ravine this month. The answer should be an easy one: Since Nolasco didn’t begin the year with the Dodgers, they won’t receive any draft-pick compensation if he signs elsewhere.

More on him, and the other free agents, later today.

We should also note here that Chris Capuano and Mark Ellis have options for 2014 in their contracts. Capuano’s is a mutual option for $8 million with a $1 million buyout; Ellis’ is a $5.75 million club option with a $1 million buyout. If the team declines the option on both players, that’s a dirty dozen Dodgers destined to hit the free-agent market.

Some bullet points for an Allantide morning:
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Five Dodgers are among the Rawlings Gold Glove Award finalists.

Mark Ellis

Mark Ellis dives for a ground ball in a June game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. (Associated Press photo)

Third baseman Juan Uribe, catcher A.J. Ellis, second baseman Mark Ellis, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and pitcher Zack Greinke are finalists for Rawlings Gold Glove Awards at their respective positions.

The finalists were announced Friday morning. Winners will be announced on ESPN2 at 5 p.m. Pacific Time on Tuesday.

The Dodgers’ five finalists are second only to the Baltimore Orioles, who have six. The Kansas City Royals also have five Gold Glove Award finalists.

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Dodgers, Cuban infielder Alexander Guerrero agree on 4-year, $28 million deal.

Ending months of speculation, the Dodgers have agreed to sign Cuban infielder Alexander Guerrero to a 4-year, $28 million contract.

The contract includes a $10 million signing bonus and is expected to be announced by the Dodgers as soon as this afternoon.

Guerrero, 26, gained a reputation as a power hitter in Cuba despite his small frame (listed at 5-10, 200 pounds). He batted .302 in eight national tournaments for Cuba. In his final full season in Cuba (2011-12), he hit .290/.402/.576 with 21 home runs for Las Tunas in Serie Nacional, Cuba’s top league. The following postseason, Guerrero hit .240/.296/.480 with one home run and five RBIs.

It’s unclear how those numbers would translate to Major League Baseball, and some observers have questioned whether he is ready for a full-time major league job. He projects as a second baseman, which doesn’t bode well for Mark Ellis if Guerrero is ready to take over at the position.

The Dodgers hold an option for 2014 on Ellis for $5.75 million. By signing Guerrero, the Dodgers appear more likely to exercise the $1 million buyout in Ellis’ contract.

The 36-year-old Ellis is a lifetime .265/.330/.390 hitter who has carved out an 11-year major-league career with his glove. His .9907 fielding percentage as a second baseman is fifth all-time.
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Daily Distractions: This scavenger hunt is a suite deal for fans.

Magic Johnson

Magic Johnson with Rachel Robinson on Jackie Robinson Day at Dodger Stadium. Photo by Getty Images

Want to meet Magic Johnson?

Sorry — to #MeetMagic?

The Dodgers are hosting a scavenger hunt to give seven fans a chance to meet the Dodgers’ co-owner and receive two suite tickets to his sold-out Bobblehead Night game Sept. 12 against the San Francisco Giants.

The rules: Beginning at 2 p.m. today, and around the same time each of the next six days, @Dodgers will tweet a clue related to the specific location of a Magic Johnson bobblehead with hashtag #MeetMagic. You need to travel to the location of the Bobblehead, find the Dodger Blue Crew member with the Bobblehead, and correctly answer a trivia question. The bobbleheads are going to be placed at “several iconic Southern California locations.” That’s all we know.

You can only win one pair of tickets, which are valued at $1,000. Some more rules can be found here.

Some bullet points for a Rosh Hashana:
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