Originally written on Valley Bay News  |  Last updated 10/29/14
Dodgers’ manager Don Mattingly insists that there are “enough at-bats to go around,” and also that a demotion for Yasiel Puig is “not going to happen.” Assuming the latter is true, and it most certainly should be considering the start to Puig’s career, the question becomes, how exactly does Mattingly intend to spread around enough at-bats for the likes of Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and Yasiel Puig? Forget about Skip Schumaker and Scott Van Slyke, their fates are sealed by the emergence of Puig as a rookie force in the National League. How about Andre Ethier though? The 31-year old right fielder is currently earning $13.5 million this year and is signed through 2017 with a vesting option for 2018. He is in the beginning stages of a long-term extension that was meant to keep him in Los Angeles likely for the duration of his career. Crawford, also 31-years old, is an even higher-priced $20 million player this year, and also signed through 2017. The difference between the two players, Crawford is having the better season and brings speed to the table that Ethier simply doesn’t possess. Crawford actually leads the team in runs scored and has returned to being the offensive catalyst he was back in his days with the Tampa Bay Rays. What it boils down to is that one of these players is destined to become either the fourth outfielder, or traded out of town. If you are choosing from a strictly talent standpoint, Ethier becomes the odd man out. Crawford has meant too much to the team this season. Perhaps if you were looking to only shed salary, you decide to move Crawford and the extra $6.5 million he represents, but that’s likely a harder sell and one that ultimately weakens your team more in the process. The bottom line though, you don’t keep a $13.5 million (or $20 million) fourth outfielder on your roster. Besides, an outfield of Crawford in left, Kemp in center and Puig in right is just downright deadly. Andre Ethier’s 2013 stats: Year G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS 2013 65 253 225 17 56 11 1 5 20 24 42 .249 .328 .373 .701 Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table Generated 6/19/2013. Carl Crawford’s 2013 Stats: Year G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS 2013 51 201 183 32 55 12 2 5 13 9 3 14 27 .301 .358 .470 .828 Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table Generated 6/19/2013. There’s a decent chance that Ethier does remain the fourth outfielder for the remainder of the 2013 season, but his tenure with the Dodgers should end there. Trading the remaining four years and $71.5 million left on his contract should not be that hard of a task when you consider the contract recently signed by Nick Swisher with the Cleveland Indians, four years and $56 million. Yes, the Dodgers will likely need to eat some of his contract to make a deal work, but they can move him if they choose to. Given the Dodgers’ injury history recently, it’s actually more likely that he will wind up staying in town for the remainder of this season. “Look at the way guys are dropping around here,” Ethier recently told Dylan Hernandez of The LA Times. “They need as many bodies as they can have.” In the same article by Hernandez, Ethier also seemed to realize his time may be coming to an end in Los Angeles. He recalled how Juan Pierre had to handle a similar situation when himself and Matt Kemp were called up to the big leagues, signalling the end of Pierre’s role as an everyday contributor to the Dodgers. “He really embraced a role that he was kind of thrown into there with me and Matt coming up,” Ethier said. “He always cheered us and rooted us on no matter what, even if he was put in a tough situation. That’s something I definitely learned from.” “If guys can come up like that and help this team win, I’m all for it,” he added in reference to Puig. Should a move wind up coming this season, the Dodgers could have takers in either the Boston Red Sox or the New York Mets. Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe recently wrote: Teams are internally starting to discuss Ethier’s availability, while a couple have already called the Dodgers. The answer would appear to be yes, he is available. There’s no doubt the Red Sox have mulled it, but with Daniel Nava hitting well, Shane Victorino about to return, and Jonny Gomes starting to heat up, there doesn’t appear to be a need. Ethier is a good friend of Dustin Pedroia, and there’s a good chance Pedroia could motivate him and get him out of his malaise. But it’s not a chance the Red Sox want to take at this juncture. As a quick search or Ethier’s name on the popular baseball rumor site MLBTradeRumors.com will show, there has been plenty of discussion about the Mets picking up the right fielder. And as Buster Olney wrote in his Insider piece on ESPN this week, there are an assortment of other options around the league, some more realistic than others. Again noting that the Mets may make the most sense. The New York Mets, who should be in the market for major league outfielders; the New York Yankees; the Pittsburgh Pirates, although any deal would have to be completely on Pittsburgh’s terms, because they have alternatives; the Texas Rangers, with David Murphy and Nelson Cruz headed for free agency; the Oakland A’s, who are always shopping for bargains; the Baltimore Orioles, if the money is right and Buck Showalter lobbies for Ethier; the Chicago White Sox, who have to start preparing for some lineup turnover and could use a left-handed hitter. Of all the teams listed here, the Mets make the most sense, because they have the greatest need and should have financial flexibility. Ethier back to the Oakland A’s organization makes little sense with Josh Reddick, Yoenis Cespedes, Coco Crisp, Chris Young, Seth Smith and a crop of young outfielders near MLB-ready. The Yankees also don’t seem like a great fit, although the short porch in right field would play well for Ethier’s game and possibly elevate his career. The rest of the options on Olney’s list make sense though. The only thing that is certain at this point for Ethier is that is career he won’t be an everyday player with the Dodgers as soon as his teammates return from the disabled list. He’ll be finding a lot more time on the bench until he eventually suits up for another team as we approach the trade deadline or to begin next season. He’ll just need to make the most of his opportunities and place himself in the best possible situation moving forward with his career. “It’s not in your control,” Ethier said. “It’s nothing you can have a say about, except to go out there and play hard.”Tweet
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