Second baseman Mark Ellis enjoys the little things that have come with spending his entire big league career with the A's.
He has formed friendships with the Oakland Coliseum security guards and clubhouse staff. He often can be found lounging in equipment manager Steve Vucinich's office before a game.
Comfort comes with familiarity, and Ellis -- the longest-tenured Athletic on the active roster -- has a strong desire to stick with the team.
After the season, the A's must decide if the feeling is mutual.
Ellis' two-year, $11 million contract expires after this season, and the A's can exercise his $6 million option for 2011 or cut ties with a $500,000 buyout.
What the A's do could be determined by some of the other high-priced decisions they need to make. The team is highly unlikely to pick up the $12.5 million option on oft-injured third baseman Eric Chavez (their longest-tenured player, period). Center fielder Coco Crisp's strong second half gives Oakland incentive to exercise his $5.75 million option.
But the decision on Ellis, 33, is not clear-cut. He tries not to dwell on the topic.
"They're going to do what they want to do," he said. "Obviously I like it here. This is where I want to be. I just do what I can to help the team win and that stuff will work itself out."
If work ethic and leadership qualities were the only considerations, this would be a no-brainer. Ellis has been one of the most respected players in the clubhouse since breaking into the majors with the A's in 2002.
"He's always been a solid offensive player and been one of the best defensive second basemen in the league," A's assistant general manager David Forst said. "(But) Mark's value has been more than what he does on the field."
That said, Ellis hasn't stayed healthy in recent seasons. He missed the final month of 2008 after undergoing right shoulder surgery. He missed 55 games in 2009 with a calf injury and was sidelined for 28 games earlier this season with a strained left hamstring.
His offensive production also has tailed off since 2007, when he set career highs with 19 homers and 76 RBIs. Ellis is hitting .268 -- right around his career average -- and he has just three homers and 35 RBIs in 101 games, which means his streak of five straight double-digit homer seasons is likely to end.
"Numbers-wise, it hasn't been good," he said. "There's no doubt about that."
A major league scout who requested anonymity said he couldn't justify paying Ellis $6 million based on his diminishing stats. But one move the A's might try is to buy out Ellis' option and see if he's willing to renegotiate a new contract at a lower salary.
Also to consider: Could the A's adequately replace Ellis?
Adam Rosales handled second base well when Ellis was out. But the A's value Rosales as a utility man, and he'll be coming off an ankle injury that ended his season in August.
Two highly regarded second base prospects haven't progressed as quickly as hoped. Adrian Cardenas, 22, has hammered Double-A pitching over the past two seasons but hit just .260 in two stints at Triple-A Sacramento over the same period. Jemile Weeks, 23, has been robbed of playing time with a left hip flexor problem since being taken by the A's in the first round of the 2008 draft.
Eric Sogard, a middle infielder enjoying a fine season at Triple-A Sacramento, could factor into the A's 2011 plans. Or they could look to the free-agent market, where Orlando Hudson and Cristian Guzman will be among the top names.
But A's catcher Kurt Suzuki is crossing his fingers that Ellis stays.
"We need him," Suzuki said. "He's consistent defensively and he's going to hit and provide leadership. I definitely want him back."