DENVER -- The Rockies acquired second baseman Mark Ellis, a player they had interest in dating back to last winter, from the Athletics on Thursday.
The Rockies received Ellis, 34, who has spent his entire Major League career with the Athletics after being acquired from the Royals when he was in the Minors in 2001, and cash considerations, although the Rockies will take on about $1 million of Ellis' salary. The Athletics received right-handed relief pitcher Bruce Billings and a player to be named.
Ellis is expected to be in uniform for Friday night's opener of a three-game set with the Royals.
"They want me in there every day to play second base," Ellis said. "I'll go in there and just be me and go play, go do something to help the team win every day. That's the way I've looked at my career as a whole -- just do something every day to help the ballclub win."
Ellis has battled some hamstring issues and was hitting .217 with 11 doubles, one triple, one home run and 16 RBIs for the Athletics before losing the starting job to Jemile Weeks. However, last season, Ellis hit .291 -- second only to his .316 in 2005. Ellis will join the lineup and hit second, supplanting the less-experienced duo of Chris Nelson and Jonathan Herrera, as the club tries to find offensive consistency.
|""We think [Mark Ellis] adds some toughness on our club, mentally and physically, something we feel like we need to get better in. If he performs like he performed last year, he'll be an upgrade. If he performs like he has this year, he won't be an upgrade."|
|-- GM Dan O'Dowd|
"He's a winning player," O'Dowd said. "We have some guys on this team that were teammates with him in Oakland, Jason [Giambi] in particular, so we've got a good feel on the guy.
"We think he adds some toughness on our club, mentally and physically, something we feel like we need to get better in. If he performs like he performed last year, he'll be an upgrade. If he performs like he has this year, he won't be an upgrade. Defensively, I don't think he's quite Clint Barmes [whom the Rockies sent to the Astros last winter], but I think he's a good defender."
The non-waiver Trade Deadline is July 31, but the Rockies don't always wait until they're under the gun. One of their biggest acquisitions in recent years came well before the Deadline, when they acquired righty reliever Rafael Betancourt in 2009. Betancourt was a big contributor to a club that made the postseason.
Rockies manager Jim Tracy lauded the move as a clear message that, although the Rockies pride themselves on promoting homegrown players, they're going to do what it takes to win this season.
Part of the reason the Rockies are looking at the trade market is the struggles of third baseman Ian Stewart and center fielder Dexter Fowler, both of whom started on Opening Day and have started postseason games but are at Triple-A Colorado Springs and not making the progress the organization wants to see.
"Players have to realize the fact there is no scholarship program here," Tracy said. "This is not a feel-good situation, where trying really hard and failing, or doing this or that, is going to be tolerated."
Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said, "If we want to stay together, we need to win. Otherwise, there's going to be moves made. This is one of the first ones.
"He's going to help us. He's a good player. I played against him and know a little bit about him. I know he plays hard every day. That's all you can ask of him."
Athletics general manager Billy Beane wished Ellis well.
"Obviously, kind of mixed emotions on this, given what Mark has meant to the franchise over the years, not just on the field but off the field," Beane said. "He's probably been as good of a representative as we've had since I've been here. But in the same sense, I'm also happy Mark's going to be going to a place that he's got a chance to play every day, a place that's close to his family in Arizona, and to a team that has a chance to win. At the end of the day, I think this is a great situation for Mark."
O'Dowd said he will seek starting pitching and another bat. The $1 million the Rockies added in salary -- after the Athletics agreed to pay about $2 million of Ellis' remaining salary -- leaves the Rockies with a small amount of payroll flexibility.
The Rockies will have to make another player move to accommodate Ellis on the roster. It's possible the Rockies will send Nelson (.225 average, two homers, five RBIs), who has had his moments but struggled recently, down to Triple-A Colorado Springs for regular playing time.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.