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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