The Los Angeles Dodgers and catcher A.J. Ellis avoided salary arbitration Tuesday, agreeing to a one-year contract worth $4.25 million for the 2015 season.

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports first reported the news:

The deal comes three days before the deadline for teams and their players to negotiate a common ground. Had Ellis and the Dodgers not settled, an independent arbitrator would have decided his salary next month. 

Ellis, 33, hit .191/.323/.254 with three home runs and 25 RBI last season, his seventh with the major league roster. Those offensive numbers left the Dodgers in a bit of a conundrum, as they’d come to rely on his defensive presence but were understandably concerned with keeping him in the lineup. While never an elite offensive player, 2014 represented a stark downturn from the 2012 and 2013 campaigns, where Ellis was at the very least a replacement-level offensive talent.

The Dodgers hold Ellis’ rights through the end of the 2016 season. It’ll be interesting to see how much playing time Ellis gets in 2015, though, considering the arrival of Yasmani Grandal. The highly touted catcher was among the chief acquisitions Los Angeles made in its trade of outfielder Matt Kemp to the San Diego Padres. Grandal projects as a far more dynamic offensive player but will have to work hard to gain trust from the likes of Clayton Kershaw.

Over the last three seasons, Ellis and Kershaw have become a nearly unstoppable pitcher-catcher force. According to his numbers on FanGraphs, Ellis struggles in the art of pitch framing—the advanced metric currently shaking up advanced catching rankings—but Kershaw’s trust in his teammate is unmatched.

“I think we’d be losing a lot if we let him go,” Kershaw told Dylan Hernandez of The Los Angeles Times. “I know A.J. will land on his feet, but we need him here a lot. … Just the tireless work that he does, it’s so selfless. It’s invaluable to know that what he’s putting down, there’s so much thought, so much work behind it. It gives me confidence to throw it.”

Ellis has produced a positive defensive rating, per FanGraphs, in each of his major league seasons. While his advanced age and declining offensive skill set may cost him playing time going forward, the Dodgers keeping him around for another season gives them a solid all-around platoon. Ellis is also quite the insurance plan if Grandal and Kershaw (or other pitchers on the staff) can’t get on the same page.


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