Should The Los Angeles Dodgers Have Traded Andre Ethier?
This Los Angeles Dodgers off-season has had the most hype surrounding the club in quite some time. For the fans the hype is exciting to know that the team is ready and willing to spend like a major market team and then some. The 2013 season marks the first time the Dodgers have gone significantly high into the luxury tax. This spending spree has heaped massive amounts of pressure onto the players to get the job done and bring home the team’s first championship since 1988. Growing up a Dodgers fan, I couldn’t be any more anxious to get this season under way. However, there are a couple of moves that I feel could have improved the team.
Andre Ethier has been one of my family’s favourite Dodgers for the past few years so I don’t take this topic lightly. My wife, among others, strongly disapproves of the idea that Ethier should ever be traded and might not speak to me for weeks after I write this since Ethier is her “Eye Candy.” That alone may or may not be why she even watches games with me and may be something David Culver could add to his list on his Baseball Hot Corner post on “How to interest your wife in baseball.”
Before Michael Bourn decided to sign with the Cleveland Indians there were several rumors around Major League Baseball that the Dodgers were interested in trading Ethier. The consensus was that by trading Ethier they could sign Michael Bourn and move Matt Kemp to right field. The rumors didn’t end up coming to fruition and I believe that the Dodgers missed their chance.
First thing that stands out when comparing Ethier and Bourn is the power numbers. Over the last three seasons Ethier has averaged 18 HR, 78 RBI, a batting average a shade under .290, and an OBP of .361. Bourn’s numbers in those same categories pale in comparison. Judging by those numbers Ethier is clearly the better fit in a lineup. However, the two have very different skill sets and role within a team. Bourn is paid to be a table setter and a distraction to the opposition’s pitching. A couple of years ago I would have thought that Dee Gordon would be the speed guy at the top of the order yet he has struggled to be consistent at the plate.
When you look at the lineup that will be on the field for the Dodgers there are several with great power. Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez, and Ethier all possess 20 plus home run capability. What the team is lacking, however, is a true leadoff hitter. Carl Crawford, who by all accounts, should be on the field for Opening Day, is the closest thing in the projected lineup to a leadoff hitter. Crawford has been injured quite a bit in the last two seasons that saw his numbers take drastic dips. The ability to get on base at the top of the order in front of the real muscle is put in jeopardy with Crawford having so many questions surrounding his health.
On a much smaller scale than Crawford, Ethier’s health has been a concern over the last three seasons. Missing an average of over 20 games over the last month may not sound like much but most of the injuries for Ethier have significantly lowered his production after the injury occurred. For instance, in the 2010 season Ethier started out with 11 HR and 38 RBI in the first 33 games before fracturing his pinky finger. The injury caused him to only hit 12 HR and knock in 44 more runs the rest of the year. This is just one example that there has been a significant drop off in production late in the season
Money would be no issue by switching Bourn for Ethier assuming the Dodgers would have signed Bourn to a deal similar to the Indians. In fact, signing Bourn would have saved the Dodgers potentially around $20 million dollars over the terms of the player’s contracts. There is no real advantage to age since both are 30. Defensively it would make the Dodgers one of the best in the League with all three outfield positions possessing speed. Ethier certainly is no slouch in the outfield but it’s safe to say Bourn can cover more ground.
Dodgers GM, Ned Colletti, maintains that the club has never seriously looked into trading Ethier but there were several reports in the media saying otherwise. The Mariners appeared to have been the strongest suitors for Ethier’s service but it is unclear what was offered in compensation. One possibility was moving one of the many starting pitchers that the Dodgers have along with Ethier for a prospect or two. Colletti either never seriously discussed that deal or didn’t like what was offered. The one part where I agree with the decision not to trade him is over his value. Trading a pitcher such as Chris Capuano or Aaron Harang with Ethier certainly would not get a top prospect from the Seattle Mariners such as Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen, or James Paxton.
So to answer my own question, no, the Dodgers are most likely better in the long run for not trading Ethier. Personally I could have lived with either decision to trade him or not. Selfishly I am happy they kept Ethier because even though my mind said sign Bourn, the sentimental side of me didn’t want Ethier to go.
Ryan Walton is a self proclaimed baseball nerd who lives in Southern California. He is a Finance major at California State University of San Bernardino and plans to make a career for himself in the sports media. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @Rcpwalton