Mark Ellis upgrades Rockies' defense

The Colorado Rockies needed to improve their defense at second base, and the acquisition of Mark Ellis from the Oakland Athletics, for relief pitcher Bruce Billings and a player to be named later, now gives Colorado one of the best double-play combinations in the league, with Ellis and Troy Tulowitzki at shortstop.

Ellis' sure hands and improved range on the right side of the field will provide a big lift for the Rockies' pitching staff. This year he was second among American League second basemen with a .994 fielding percentage, and his .990 career fielding percentage ranks fourth among second basemen in baseball history.

A minor trade like this one doesn’t ever get the publicity it deserves, but it is significant for the Rockies, who are 39-41 and in third place in the National League West, trailing the Giants by 6.5 games. The other important aspect of the deal is they prevented the Giants from adding Ellis to the middle of their diamond. Both the Giants and Rockies were front-runners to acquire Ellis, who was expendable because of the development of A’s former first-round pick, Jemile Weeks.

Billings is a 10th or 11th reliever who gives the A’s additional bullpen depth and can be effective in certain situations against right-handed hitters. Billings has average stuff across the board with a 86-89 mph fastball, an inconsistent slider and a usable changeup.