Dodgers second baseman Mark Ellis turns a double play in front of the Giants'… (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )
A dozen Dodgers became free agents Thursday, including second baseman Mark Ellis, whose $5.75-million option for 2014 was declined by the team.
Ellis, 36, was a finalist for the Gold Glove but became expendable when the Dodgers signed Cuban import Alexander Guerrero this month to a four-year, $28-million contract.
Ellis could still return to the Dodgers if he is willing to accept a reduced role, as the Dodgers would like to re-sign him in case Guerrero isn't ready to play in the major leagues on opening day. Guerrero, 26, will be playing in the United States for the first time.
Through Monday, the Dodgers have the exclusive right to negotiate with Ellis and their other free agents.
Among the team's other free agents are third baseman Juan Uribe, starting pitcher Ricky Nolasco, and relievers Brian Wilson and J.P. Howell.
Uribe might be the top player in a thin crop of free-agent third basemen, but the Dodgers could be reluctant to give him a multiyear deal. Uribe batted a combined .199 over the first two years of his recently completed three-year deal. If the Dodgers fail to re-sign Uribe, they could ask Hanley Ramirez to move to third base or upgrade at the position through a trade.
Nolasco, who earned $11.5 million last season, could return as the fourth or fifth starter. The Dodgers have five starting pitchers under contract for next season: Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Chad Billingsley and Josh Beckett. Billingsley and Beckett are recovering from major operations. In addition to Nolasco, the Dodgers are expected to pursue Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka.
Wilson posted a 0.88 earned-run average in 18 games for the Dodgers and could sign elsewhere as a closer.
With overworked Paco Rodriguez the only healthy left-hander in their bullpen, the Dodgers figure to make a run at Howell, who posted a 2.03 ERA in 67 games. Howell earned $2.85 million this year.
The Dodgers could also make efforts to retain veteran utility men Nick Punto and Skip Schumaker. The team is expected to part ways with its other free agents — utility man Jerry Hairston Jr., third baseman Michael Young, right-handers Carlos Marmol and Edinson Volquez, and left-hander Chris Capuano.
Capuano's $8-million option for next year was declined by the Dodgers. Like Ellis, Capuano will receive $1 million in severance pay.
Meanwhile, the Angels have only one free agent, pitcher Jason Vargas. They have until 2 p.m. Monday to decide whether to extend a one-year, $14.1-million qualifying offer to the left-hander, who went 9-8 with a 4.02 ERA in 24 starts.
The Angels aren't expected to make that offer because it would push them up against the $189-million luxury tax threshold for 2014, but that wouldn't preclude them from pursuing a multiyear deal with Vargas, who has expressed a desire to remain in Anaheim.
If they do make a qualifying offer to Vargas, who would probably decline it, the Angels would be entitled to draft-pick compensation if Vargas signs elsewhere.
General Manager Jerry Dipoto will spend much of the off-season pursuing deals for young pitchers, using players such as Mark Trumbo, Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar, Peter Bourjos, Kole Calhoun and Chris Iannetta as trade bait.