20 Days of Thinking Blue: Will Andre Ethier Stick Around?

The countdown has begun, kids. Opening Night (well, American Opening Night) is fast approaching as the Dodgers take on the Padres down in San Diego on March 30th. Leading up until then, MAMBINO will tackle 20 of the most important–and some not so important–questions that will get you set up for a season of almost unparalleled expectations. Let’s get it going:
 
How long until Andre Ethier FINALLY becomes a member of the Red Sox and crushes the Dodgers in the World Series?
 
Anyone that’s been paying even a little attention to the Los Angeles Dodgers this offseason knows the storyline: four outfielders, three spots.
 
Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford combine to make $57 million dollars next season, a unfathomable amount of money for three players who aren’t considered MVP-caliber guys for a multitude of reasons. Crawford and Ethier have three more years on these deals after this one and Kemp with five seasons after this. The monetary commitments to all of these players is tremendous, a fact which would greatly hinder their trade value on the market. The fourth outfielder is Rookie of the Year runner-up Yasiel Puig, a (allegedly) 23 year-old  Cuban wunderkind who is only making $2 million but is by far the least expendable of the bunch. He’s dynamic in almost every way, still learning the game of baseball and could somehow be only getting better.

The debate has been raging all winter-long, with fans and critics alike wondering who would be the player to go. Puig would obviously have the most robust market, but is the least likely to be dealt. Just a year ago, Matt Kemp was considered one of, if not the best player in the game, and was paid accordingly. However, two stupid plays–including running shoulder-first into an outfield wall and destroying his ankle on a lackadaisical slide at home plate–have left unable to climb back to that elite level. With over $100 million left on his deal and serious questions about whether or not he’ll ever be truly effective again, it’s unlikely that a team would trade for Kemp without the Dodgers paying for at least half of the remaining dollars.

The question then comes down to Crawford and Ethier, both of which have had serious health concerns in the past year, not to mention relatively pedestrian numbers. Ethier fancies himself a power hitter, but has seen his slugging percentage hover around .420 two of the last three years. He is basically a platoon player, as his average against left-handed pitching has plummeted down to a .221/275/.338 triple slash line. Crawford is supposed to be a defensive ace that can also wreak havoc on the basepaths. At age 32, his speed is diminishing (only 15 stolen bases last season) and isn’t the on-base machine that his reputation pegs him as.

Though Ethier isn’t necessarily an All-Star-caliber player any longer, he’s still a steady hand that can pop 15 homers and play solid defense in either center or right field. He’s got roughly $54 million left on his contract, slightly less than Crawford’s $62 million. It’s all incremental advantages, but Ethier looks like the slightly more palatable player on the trade market.

The Red Sox are an interesting location for Ethier to land, especially if Jackie Bradley, Jr. isn’t ready for primetime yet again. However, with Mike Carp and Jonny Gomes in the fold, I doubt that Ethier would be a target for them. The New York Mets are a far more interesting match to me, as well as the Seattle Mariners or Milwaukee Brewers, each of which is missing another outfielder that can hit for power.

Still, who would the Dodgers dump, if anyone? I’m not sure that they’re in a place where they can do that right now. Every LA outfielder has questions attached to him: Matt Kemp hasn’t been confirmed that he’ll be ready in April, Puig could be in for a serious sophmore slump and both Ethier and Crawford hit the DL last season.

To answer the question, Andre Ethier will stick around. All four of these outfielders will stick around until the situation resolves itself, which won’t be until all four are healthy and three are playing at a high level in those three slots. Until that happens–if that happens–I don’t see anyone being traded.

 

 

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