Imagine a world in which there wasn't an Adrian Gonzalez on the trade market. Now imagine in this world that Andre Ethier wasn't signed to an extension. The Dodgers spent the early part of their season imagining such a thing. In this world, the Dodgers would have sent out a lot of invitations for a party that might not have happened.
Magic Johnson: We're going to spend a lot of money!
Magic Johnson: Stand back! We're going to spend so much money!
Magic Johnson: This is going to be awesome! Josh Hamilton, come get some money!
Josh Hamilton: No, thank you. I'm staying in Texas.
Magic Johnson: Oh. How about you, Zack Greinke? Care for a MONEY BATH???
Zack Greinke: No. I think I'm comfortable where I'm at.
Magic Johnson: Wait. Uh, Andre, can we talk to you?
Andre Ethier: Hold on. I'm on a call with my agent about the Giants.
Magic Johnson: Gross. Whatever they offer, we'll double it.
Juan Uribe's agent: Still waiting to hear from you about that extension proposal.
Looking for a star on the free-agent market is great in theory, but what if the stars have other plans? There weren't that many on the market to begin with, and it's also possible to be less than enamored of Greinke and Hamilton as long-term, face-of-the-franchise options, even if they wanted to sign. After Matt Cain re-signed, and after it looked like Cole Hamels was going to do the same, there weren't a lot of hot-ticket items for the Dodgers to prove their sincere desire to spend. The new owners wanted to escape the orbit of the Frank McCourt era, and they were very clear on that.
An easy, completely uncontroversial first step was to extend Ethier.
He's a fan favorite, and he's been around for a while. The Dodgers weren't going to let him go after announcing they were going to spend. And if he had the leverage of free agency in a weak year for free agents, he might have extracted even more money from the team.
Then came Adrian Gonzalez. That's the big star the Dodgers were looking for, the big statement they wanted to make. They didn't need to worry about the free-agent market. They had made their point.
In order to get Gonzalez, though, the Dodgers needed to absorb Carl Crawford, too. That means the Dodgers have $60 million tied up in the outfield … through 2017. That might not be a problem financially, but it could be a problem when it comes to opportunity cost. Any outfield prospect, any complementary outfield piece on the free-agent market, is out of the question unless the Dodgers are willing to sit a player making around $20 million. That's a lot easier to do if one of the outfielders goes full Vernon Wells, but that's not exactly something to root for.
So this isn't that surprising:
Sources: Dodgers are open to the idea of dealing Andre Ethier. He signed a five-year, $85 million contract during the season.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) October 30, 2012
This is the time to test it out. Crawford isn't getting traded, and neither is Matt Kemp. The only one who makes sense for a possible deal is Ethier. And it wouldn't be for salary relief, necessarily, it's to clear a spot for … whoever ambles along in 2015, 2016, or 2017. In the meantime, the Dodgers might get a shiny prospect or two out of it. When the musical-outfielders game stops this offseason, there could be a team willing to take on Ethier's contract and part with a prospect.
Could be. But it's a bit improbable.
|vs RHP as LHB||379||16||.325||.398||.546||.945|
|vs LHP as LHB||239||4||.222||.276||.330||.606|
Those are his 2012 splits. It's not like they're an anomaly, either -- he doesn't hit lefties, and he never has. He's an expensive platoon player. A productive one, mind you -- more Ryan Howard than Jim Dwyer -- but he's still a limited hitter. As such, a deal probably wouldn't happen unless the Dodgers ate some money.
At which point, it wouldn't make sense. If the Dodgers will eat money to have Ethier not play for them, they might as well do it in the future, when his production dips. They might have to eat more money in that scenario, but they'll get the productive in the meantime, and the team is built to win now.
The Dodgers will have an outfield logjam at some point, the Dodgers will entertain offers for Andre Ethier this offseason, and Ethier isn't going to go anywhere. All of the above are likely true. It's not a bad idea for the Dodgers to see if a team will give up value for Ethier. Just don't expect it.