Dodgers face decision over A.J. Ellis, eligible for salary arbitration

Will Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis, whom Clayton Kershaw champions, be re-signed? A deadline looms

Clayton Kershaw will soon learn whether he will pitch to A.J. Ellis again next season because the Dodgers are facing a deadline that could determine the catcher's future with the team.

Ellis is one of seven Dodgers who are eligible for salary arbitration. He would become a free agent unless he is re-signed or offered a contract by 8:59 p.m. on Tuesday.

If a team can't reach an agreement on a new contract with an arbitration-eligible player but still tenders him a contract, the player would be under club control for the upcoming season. The salary would be determined by an arbitrator.

Of the arbitration-eligible players, closer Kenley Jansen, second baseman Dee Gordon and utilityman Justin Turner almost certainly will be retained. Recently acquired pitcher Juan Nicasio figures to be too. Infielder Darwin Barney and backup catcher Drew Butera might not.

Ellis is expected to return, in large part because the Dodgers would be left without a starting catcher if they let him go. The free-agent and trade markets offer limited alternatives. However, Ellis' rising salary and declining production have created some uncertainty.

Ellis, who turns 34 in April, made $3.55 million last season and would probably earn a raise in arbitration. His most recent season was his worst. He batted .191, threw out just 25% of potential base stealers — down from 44% the previous season — and was limited to 93 games because of knee and ankle injuries.

Still, Kershaw has championed Ellis' return. "I don't know what I'm going to do if he's not back," Kershaw said when the season ended. "… I think we'd be losing a lot if we let him go."

General Manager Farhan Zaidi said last month that he recognized Ellis' value to the team. "He's a leader on this team, he has relationships with the pitching staff and we're very mindful of that," Zaidi said.

Zaidi also said he wouldn't focus on how Ellis performed last season and would examine his entire body of work. In his first two seasons as the Dodgers' everyday catcher, Ellis batted .255 and averaged 12 home runs and 52 runs batted in.

In four playoff games this year, Ellis batted .538. "You saw what he could do in this series once he's right," Kershaw said.

Short hops

The Dodgers remain in talks with other teams about potential deals involving Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier, but don't expect to move any of them until the free-agent and trade markets for offensive players become more clearly defined. … Manager Don Mattingly became a father again Saturday when his wife gave birth to son Louis Riley Mattingly. The boy shares a birthday with broadcaster Vin Scully, who turned 87.

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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