-- LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers added a chemistry test to the equation Thursday, trading beloved backup catcher A.J. Ellis to the Philadelphia Phillies in order to improve the team's fortunes against left-handed pitching.
The Dodgers landed right-handed hitting catcher Carlos Ruiz in the transaction, as well as cash considerations, while minor league pitcher Tommy Bergjans and a player to be named later also went to the Phillies along with Ellis.
Ellis was not only the longest tenured Dodgers player, having spent 13 years in the organization and the last seven in the major leagues, he was also extremely close with staff ace Clayton Kershaw. Ellis said a number of emotional goodbyes with players and staff Thursday, but the most emotional was with Kershaw.
"Baseball is funny, anything can happen in the future, but to know that in almost all likelihood I will never get to catch him again is without a doubt the most devastating thing I am feeling right now," Ellis said. "To feel that and for both of us to hang out here and try to process what was happening, it was very difficult."
Ellis has said that catching Kershaw is like having an up-close-and-personal look at somebody on the road to the Hall of Fame. The duo sat on the dugout bench together Thursday afternoon without much to say.
"I think the shock kind of it hit us both simultaneously and we both cried," Ellis said.
Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said that team leadership and chemistry were all taken into account, suggesting that the front office chewed on the deal for multiple days. In the end, though, the Dodgers were intent on improving a lineup that was 13th in the National League in OPS against lefties at .663.
Ruiz has just 44 at-bats against lefties this year, but he has two of his three home runs in those at-bats. He has 121 at-bats against right-handers. Over his 11-year career, Ruiz has a .275 batting average and an .814 OPS against lefties, compared to .265 and .722 against righties.
"I think that is a big part of it is him against left-handed pitching, just the quality of at-bat," Friedman said of the 37-year-old Ruiz. "It was something, as a whole that [we] were focused on in July and then into August was just ways to lengthen our lineup against left-handed pitching. ... With Carlos, we felt that we could get more offensive production out of that position."
Ellis said he was at a neighborhood park with his son Thursday morning when he received a text to come for a meeting in manager Dave Roberts' office. Although he guessed what the meeting was likely about, the confirmation of the trade hit him hard.
"It's a really, really sad day for me; it's a really sad day for my family," Ellis said. "The one thing I am most proud of is being a Dodger for my entire career. I was drafted by these guys in '03 and to have been the longest tenured Dodger was something I was extremely proud of. To have that gone now in a blink of an eye, without much time to feel finality to it, it rips your heart out."
Ellis was getting only sporadic playing time of late as catcher Yasmani Grandal had been flourishing both behind the plate and with the bat. Ellis was batting just .194 with a .252 OPS in just 139 at-bats. But his departure is sure to be felt.
Friedman was asked how much of the chemistry equation was considered to make the potential offensive return from Ruiz worth making the deal.
"All of our interests are perfectly aligned in terms of doing everything we can to bring a world championship back to Los Angeles," Friedman said. "The various players we talked to on a personal level, it's hard for everybody, but understood the thought process, and at least if they disagreed with the assessment of the players, just understand that the whole goal in everything we are trying to do is win."