Another offseason brings with it a flurry of trade speculations. Scott talked about some of the more ludicrous trade rumors, but once again this offseason includes the routine amount of Andre Ethier trade scenarios. Last year I thought that the Dodgers would not look to move Ethier, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t talk to other teams about the possibility. Trade scenarios are always swirling, but unless the Dodgers get something back useful in return, what is the point of trading away one of our best and longest-tenured players? Why trade a player who can play center field if needed, a position where the Dodgers sorely lack depth in?
Andre Ethier’s contract was the first move the new ownership completed after taking over the Dodgers. Whether you think Ethier’s contract was overpriced at the time or not, the ownership felt that Ethier was a Dodger which they welcomed to the family to what seemed like a long-term outlook. Maggie Ethier was photographed by Andre’s side holding flowers given to her by the owners. Soon after the signing, the trade rumors stirred up. Ethier slumped after the lucrative contract was signed, and that signaled to some that the deal was all wrong.
Sure it’s not 2009 Captain Clutch Andre Ethier anymore, but with Ethier still comes a solid and versatile player. Ethier played in 142 games for the Dodgers in 2013, and he played 74 games in center field. Ethier had a very similar year to his 2011 season when he hit 11 homeruns with 52 RBIs. Ethier did hit 20 points higher for batting average in 2011 than 2013. In 2012, Ethier had a solid season with 20 homeruns and 89 RBIs with a .284 batting average. Some still said that wasn’t enough, and Dre should be traded.
The Dodgers still have four highly paid outfielders going into the 2014 season, but each outfielder besides Yasiel Puig have battled consistent injuries. The Dodgers have reportedly been listening to offers on all their outfielders including Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford, and Andre Ethier. This isn’t shocking, and it doesn’t mean any trade will be necessarily made. Each outfielder has a lengthy and pricy contract, and each player has health concerns. The question of what the Dodgers would get in return for any of these players remains to be seen, but are mid-level prospects good enough value for a return on one of these star players?
Carl Crawford has had health concerns and is in the midst of his 7-year $142 million contract which runs through 2017. He only appeared in 116 games for the Dodgers this year after being plagued with multiple injuries and general rustiness. His arm is weak, and it’s almost a liability out in left field. Andre Ethier has a much better throwing arm, and Dre made 8 assists (the same amount as Yasiel Puig) in 2013. CC’s running game has slowly declined to almost nothing now as well. Crawford once stole 60 bases in 2009 for Tampa Bay. Once again, this is not longer 2009. CC stole just 15 bases with the Dodgers this season. Even though he still possesses speed, Don Mattingly barely ever calls for him to steal. Crawford would be my preferred trade target if I had to trade one of the three outfielders.
Matt Kemp is the unknown. After two disastrous injury riddled seasons, it is not clear whether Matt Kemp can return to Beastmode form again. Of course other teams would still take the risk since Matt was one of the best in the game during his 2011 season. In 2013, Kemp only played in 73 Dodger games. He underwent two offseason surgeries, but is expected to be ready by Opening Day. So do the Dodgers trade away one of their outfielders on the hope that Kemp will be healthy?
Joc Pederson is in the wings, but he is not ready just yet. Joc is also no more than a corner infielder, so by trading Andre Ethier the Dodgers would lose Ethier’s versatility in the outfield. Ethier is the most versatile outfielder on the Dodgers and able to play all three outfield positions. Pederson could also find himself in the middle of a potential trade, but it would be a shame not to see him wear Blue to begin his career.
Scott Van Slyke is not a viable option as an everyday starter for the Dodgers. SVS has some occasional pop with the
bat, but he is poor defensively. Tony Gwynn Jr. was the Dodgers only true center fielder outside of Matt Kemp who has played in the Majors. TGJ is now a minor league free agent, and it’s doubtful the Dodgers will sign him. TGJ sparkled defensively, but even though he filled in admirably when Matt Kemp’s tour of injuries began, he was quickly phased out of the equation when his bat never showed up.
The Dodgers could play Yasiel Puig in center field, but his inexperience really showed during the few stints he had out in center field this season. Puig was much better in right field, and that is where he belongs. The Dodgers cannot trade Ethier unless they are all-in on Matt Kemp or they prime Pederson or Puig to play center field. Dee Gordon is playing outfield during winter ball, but that experiment is just beginning.
Matt Kemp’s 8-year $160 million contract make it very hard to trade him coupled with his health history. Ethier’s 6-year deal runs through 2018 if his vesting option goes through. Ethier could be a target for teams like the Mets who are looking for an outfielder, but that doesn’t mean the Dodgers will oblige if there isn’t a valuable return. The Dodgers should probably wait until Spring Training to trade one of their outfielders if that is what they are looking to do in order to gauge the readiness of Kemp.
I feel Ethier still has a place on this Dodger team. Without a totally confident outlook for me on Kemp, I don’t see the reason to trade away Ethier right now. Without Ethier in 2013, we would have had Skip Schumaker starting in center field for most of the year. Or perhaps Nick Buss could have taken over duties out there. The options were not pretty. It’s always better to have too much than not enough, and right now the Dodgers need all four outfielders going into Opening Day.