Mailbag #16: EA and Ethier trade value, Kendrick extension, Grandal starter

A pre-Christmas mailbag for your reading pleasure. Send mailbag questions to thedodgersdigest at gmail dot com or through the form on the right sidebar. Thank you everyone reading and have a safe and pleasant holiday season.

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Zach: I came across this post talking about potential interest from the Mets in Erisbel Arruebarrena. Are the Dodgers actively looking to trade him and what kind of trade value would he have considering his supposed opt-out clause if he is traded? Or would he add more value to the Dodgers as a defensive specialist/bench role to give Rollins rest?

Arrubarrena signed a 5-year, $25 million deal last winter and didn’t have the greatest of debut seasons. The upside — and something that should, in theory, increase his trade value is the fact he made $9 million in 2014 ($1.5 million base, $7.5 million signing bonus), thus reducing the rest of his future commitment significantly. And for clarification, it’s Alex Guerrero who has the opt-out clause if he’s traded, no Arruebarrena. Since he’s owed just $16 million over the next four years, is only going to turn 25 years old and is worth at least 1-1.5 wins with his glove alone, he should have at least some value. Now, I wouldn’t expect a top prospect (or anything close to it) in return for Arruebarrena, but a team like the Mets and Athletics could be in the market for a shortstop. If they can’t find one on the free agent market, international market or trade market, perhaps Arruebarrena would be a worthwhile gamble. The Dodgers could keep him, but they’ve shown a willingness this winter to move players the old regime had brought in, and they aren’t afraid to throw in money to get a deal done. If he’s kept, I see him beginning in Triple-A and only coming up if Rollins goes on the disabled list. Justin Turner and Darwin Barney would be fine fill-ins if Rollins needs a day off.

Jonas: Do you see Howie being the long term plan, or as a stop-gap like Rollins?

During a conference call on Friday, Andrew Friedman said the club hasn’t yet discussed extending Howie Kendrick, as he is a free agent at season’s end. Of course, that doesn’t mean they haven’t discussed it, internally. This kind of move isn’t made if the braintrust isn’t thinking down the road. There aren’t many in-house options to take up for Kendrick if he leaves. Turner isn’t an everyday player, Barney is a defensive specialist who wouldn’t hit enough to justify a full-time gig, Darnell Sweeney‘s future still isn’t clear and Guerrero isn’t really a second baseman. I really feel like Kendrick will be the Dodgers’ second baseman for the next 3-4 years, until a true in-house option is ready to go.

Wayne: Who is our starting catcher? Grandal or Ellis? Maybe Ellis only catches for Kershaw?

Yasmani Grandal, the centerpiece of the Matt Kemp trade, is being brought in to be the Dodgers’ everyday catcher. A.J. Ellis was great in the (brief) playoffs, but his best days are behind him. Grandal is 26, has power, can draw a walk and is a great framer. He’s also a switch-hitter, which (somewhat) limits the platoon opportunities. But Ellis was tendered a contract and will probably be one of the most expensive backup catchers in baseball (fitting for baseball’s richest team, really). Mike has predicted a 65/35 split between Grandal and Ellis, and I’m inclined to agree. I could see Ellis getting the majority of opportunities to catch Clayton Kershaw, but Kershaw and Grandal are going to have to get comfortable with each other, as Grandal will be around longer than Ellis will be.

Punto2016: How much of Ethier’s contract do you think the Dodgers would need to eat in order to be able to trade him in a straight salary dump, a la the Juan Pierre trade in December 2009?

Man, it’d be nice if Andre Ethier only had $18.5 million remaining on his contract as Pierre did when he was traded to the White Sox. The Dodgers ended up paying $10.5 million (56.7 percent) of that remaining deal. Alas, he does not. He has $56 million remaining and has practically no trade value. If you want to draw a straight parallel, the Dodgers would have to include $31.8  million to get the likes of John Ely and Jon Link in return. Now, there’s still a chance Ethier could be a nice left-handed side of a straight platoon for some team, but Ethier’s best days — like Ellis from earlier — are behind him. The Dodgers are going to have to include a lot of money to move Ethier. They’re going to have to move Ethier before opening day. Not even the Dodgers can afford an $18 million pinch-hitter.

Gary: What’s the view of prospect Aaron Miller as a hitter? He’s tearing up the Australian Baseball League, batting .385/.423/.677/1.099 playing 1B and LF. Granted, Trent Oeltjen is batting .309 /.360/.618/.978, but Miller’s numbers are at the top of the league.

First, a little context. Miller was the Dodgers’ supplemental first-round pick in the 2009 draft. He was viewed as a hitter by some teams, a pitcher by others. The Dodgers opted for the latter, and it worked for a bit. He had some success, but injuries, lack of command and his stuff prevented him from fulfilling the promise he showed early in his career. In early 2013, the Dodgers and Miller decided to give up pitching and focus on hitting. He went to Great Lakes and posted a better-than-expected .266/.332/.419 triple slash (as a 25-year-old, mind you). He spent all of 2014 in Rancho Cucamonga and hit .257/.350/.476 with 14 home runs and 28 doubles. I saw him a few times in person this past season, and the thing that stood out to me most was his plate discipline. He didn’t seem overly anxious at the plate and was able to identify pitches relatively well. As a big guy (6’3, 200), he has natural power potential. But he also has a lot of swing-and-miss.

He’ll go to Double-A (if he’s still in the organization come 2015) and be tested there. If he passes that test, then maybe he can become a fourth- or fifth outfielder in the majors, but I’d bet against it. He’s going into his age-27 season, hasn’t been to Double-A as a hitter and is still unrefined as a hitter. It’s a nice story, but I wouldn’t get too excited about it. More likely, he’s a career minor-leaguer who puts up good-not-great numbers in Triple-A (once he gets there).

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler
Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosts a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He is a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.