Mark Ellis was an afterthought when he was first acquired by the Oakland A's on January 8, 2001 from the Kansas City Royals. He was part of a three-team deal that brought to Oakland KC Royals outfielder Johnny Damon, as well as right-hander Corey Lidle from Tampa Bay. While both Damon and Lidle would play important roles for the A's in the early 2000s, it was Ellis who became a mainstay in Oakland for a decade.
Ellis made his major league debut for the A's on April 9, 2002. By the midway point of the A's 2002 season, Ellis was a fixture in the Oakland everyday line-up. Even when the A's acquired veteran Ray Durham at the deadline that season, the team kept the rookie Ellis at second, putting Durham at DH, much to Durham's chagrin. Ellis' steady work with the glove quickly made him a favorite among fans and the A's coaching staff and teammates.
From 2002 until recently, only injuries would threaten Ellis' hold on the second base job. Unfortunately, injuries were a constant for the Florida alum. They began in 2004, when he missed the entire season with a severely separated shoulder suffered in a collision with Bobby Crosby in spring training. Ellis surprised even his doctors with a return in 2005 and he put together his best season at the plate that year, batting .316 with an 861 OPS. He would battle various leg injuries throughout the 2008-2011 seasons. In 2006, he was forced to miss the American League Championship Series after suffering a broken hand during the American League Divisional Series.
In his nine year career with the A's, Ellis batted .265 with a 729 OPS in 1056 games. But it was his glove that made the most indelible impression on the franchise. Although he has never won a Gold Glove, Ellis has been widely considered one of the top two or three second basemen in all of baseball defensively since he debuted in 2002. In 1021 games at second base, he committed only 59 errors and had a range factor and fielding percentage well above the league averages throughout his career.
Ellis has also been an important figure to the team's fanbase and was the last remaining member of the team that won an MLB-record 20 consecutive games in 2002. He appeared in three post-seasons with the A's. Ellis is the Oakland A's career leader in games played and his .990 career fielding percentage is second best in major league history.
Ellis became a trade target with the emergence of rookie second baseman Jemile Weeks, who drafted by the A's in the first round as Ellis' heir apparent in 2008. Weeks debuted on June 7 with Oakland when Ellis was placed on the DL with a hamstring strain. Since that time, Weeks has been the best player on the A's roster, batting .303 with an 806 OPS and six steals in 20 games. He has scored 12 runs. Weeks was batting .321 for Triple-A Sacramento at the time of his recall to Oakland.
Coming to Oakland from the Colorado Rockies is right-hander Bruce Billings, as well as a player to be named later. Billings has been a reliever for the Rockies' Triple-A team, the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, for much of the season. The 25-year-old has struck-out 47 and has walked 21 in 50.1 innings for the Sky Sox. He has also made one major league appearance, allowing a run on five hits in two innings.
The 2007 30th-round pick had been mostly a starter in the Rockies' system until he moved into the bullpen midway through the 2010 season. In 2010, he was a Texas League mid-season All-Star and went 11-6 with a 3.28 ERA and 101 strike-outs in 109.2 innings for the Tulsa Drillers. He set a team record by throwing 38 consecutive scoreless innings last season.
Billings also participated in the Arizona Fall League last October and was named an AFL Rising Star. In 2008, Billings threw a no-hitter for Low-A Asheville.
The right-hander's best pitch is his fastball, which sits in the 90-93 MPH range with good movement. He also has a slider and an inconsistent change-up. Billings was teammates with Stephen Strasburg in college for one season at San Diego State.
In addition to the A's receiving a player to be named later in this deal, Oakland will be sending cash to the Rockies to help cover Ellis' contract. He was in the final year of a three-year/$16.5 million deal. Ellis joins Jason Giambi, Carlos Gonzalez, Huston Street and Clayton Mortensen as former A's on the Colorado roster.