Rockies Upgrade At Keystone With Mark Ellis

The Deal
The Athletics called up second baseman Jemile Weeks, the 12th overall pick in the 2008 draft, on June 7 and he proceeded to bat .309/.349/.469 with six stolen bases through his first 21 games. The 24-year-old cemented his place as Oakland’s second baseman of the future, supplanting veteran Mark Ellis.

The Rockies had experienced less luck with two young second sackers of their own, so they worked out a trade with the A’s to acquire the steadying hand of Ellis, who even at age 34 ranks as one of the top defensive players at the keystone. He takes over for Jonathan Herrera (63 OPS+) and Chris Nelson (62 OPS+) in Denver. The Rockies sent rookie righthanded reliever Bruce Billings as well as a player to be named to the A’s, who kicked in about two-thirds of the $3 million still owed to Ellis.

UPDATE (Sept. 30): The Athletics acquired 22-year-old center fielder Eliezer Mesa to complete the deal.

Athletics Acquire
Bruce Billings, rhp
Age: 25.
Born: Nov. 18, 1985 in San Diego.
Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 200. Bats: R. Throws: R.
School: San Diego State.
Career Transactions: Selected by Rockies in 30th round of 2007 draft; signed June 10, 2007.

Club (League) Class W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
Colo. Springs (PCL) AAA 6 2 4.47 29 0 1 50 58 29 25 4 21 47 1.57
Colorado (NL) MLB 0 0 4.50 1 0 0 2 5 1 1 0 0 0 2.50

Following a decorated four-year career at San Diego State, Billings became the rare player drafted in the 30th round or later to make it to the big leagues, which he did on May 27. He took the minor leagues one level per season, impressing the Rockies enough that they added him to the 40-man roster last November to shield him from the Rule 5 draft. His strikeout rate had spiked after moving to the bullpen for Double-A Tulsa (3.56 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 46 strikeouts in 30 innings) and in the Arizona Fall League (3.27 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 10 strikeouts in 11 innings). Billings profiles as a middle reliever or spot starter with a quality fastball/curveball repertoire that he complements with a mid-80s cutter that he works in on lefthanded batters. He works the zone laterally and vertically with a low-90s fastball and mid-70s breaking ball.

Eliezer Mesa, of
Age: 22. Position: LF (34 G), CF (6 G), RF (5 G).
Born: Nov. 24, 1988 in Azua, Dominican Republic.
Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 180. Bats: R. Throws: R.
Career Transactions: Signed as nondrafted free agent by Rockies, Nov. 13, 2007.

Club (League) Class AVG G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB OBP SLG
Modesto (CAL) HiA .256 53 164 22 42 7 1 0 13 15 28 11 .320 .311

A wrist injury knocked Mesa out for most of the first half, but when he returned to Modesto in June he fell into a backup role as Delta Cleary played center field every day for the Nuts. Even in a lost year, Mesa showed flashes of above-average speed and basestealing instincts (11 steals in 13 tries) and a solid batting eye (15-to-28 walk-to-strikeout ratio), traits that may serve him one day as a reserve outfielder. Mesa can hold down center field, but he lacks the pure range to make up for a swing more geared for contact than power. Rockies farmhands play in favorable hitting conditions as they advance through the minors—particularly in home games—and Mesa is no exception. In stints with Rookie-level Casper, low Class A Asheville and Modesto the past three seasons, he’s hit .345 and slugged .475 in home games, compared with .242 and .313 on the road.

Rockies Acquire
Mark Ellis, 2b
Age: 34. Bats: R. Remaining Commitment: Approximately $1 million of prorated $3 million salary.
Contract details courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts.

Oakland (AL) 2011 .217 62 217 21 47 11 1 1 16 8 32 7 .253 .290
3-Year Totals .265 291 1030 118 273 58 1 16 126 71 142 24 .317 .370

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