This week, Dodgers catching prospect Austin Barnes was hit in the hand. The severity of the injury turned out to be minimal, but the uncertainty around Barnes heightened the front office's concern about its catching depth.
That worry, along with the team's continued interest in improving against left-handed pitching, led to Thursday's acquisition of Philadelphia catcher Carlos Ruiz and the exodus of longtime backup catcher A.J. Ellis.
"I could go on and on about A.J. and his attributes, and what he brings to a team," Andrew Friedman, Dodgers president of baseball operations, said. "And if Carlos didn't possess similar things, we wouldn't have made the move."
The Dodgers sent Ellis and minor league pitcher Tommy Bergjans, along with a player to be named to the Phillies. Ruiz is expected to join the Dodgers on Friday.
Ellis is a beloved figure in the Dodgers clubhouse, a crucial liaison with Manager Dave Roberts and a close friend of pitcher Clayton Kershaw. But at 35, his value on offense is limited. He is batting .194 this season, with five hits since the All-Star break.
The Dodgers view Ruiz, 37, as a significant upgrade at the plate, and a competent replacement behind the plate and inside the clubhouse. Ruiz has an .830 on-base-plus-slugging percentage this season against left-handed pitchers. The team thinks he can help provide Yasmani Grandal with extra days off against left-handers.
"We felt like he fit our group really well, in terms of the ability to handle left-handed pitching, the quality of at-bat," Friedman said. "The grinder-type approach in the batter's box. We think he will help really lengthen our lineup."
The Dodgers hold a $4.5-million option on Ruiz for next season. The team hopes his relationship with fellow former Phillie, Chase Utley, can help integrate him into the mix as he gets to know the pitching staff.
"As you acquire someone with the baseball IQ and the feel that Carlos has, who hasn't been around, sometimes they might have helpful suggestions that we're not seeing from being so mired in it," Friedman said. "So it works both ways."
Ethier heads to rehab assignment
Andre Ethier began a rehabilitation assignment with Class-A Rancho Cucamonga on Thursday night as he attempts a comeback from the broken leg he suffered in March. The Dodgers hope to activate him in September, when he will be a "very welcome addition here," Friedman said.