When camp kicked off last month, I noted, with some surprise, that Andre Ethier was still around. Shocking, wasn’t it? It feels like we’ve been talking about how the Dodgers seemed to be trying their hardest to trade Ethier for years. Or longer. And yet, there he was, still wearing Dodger blue, still talking about how he wanted to start somewhere. That the team had been unable to move him seemed like an indictment of just how low his market value truly is.
Around that same time, Molly Knight asked on Twitter what people thought he’d be worth on the open market if he were a free agent. I guessed two years, $10 million. Ethier is still owed $56 million. You can see the problem.
Look around the league, too. The Blue Jays lost outfielders Colby Rasmus and Melky Cabrera this winter, saw Michael Saunders injure his knee early in camp, and decided to resolve that by… bringing in the disappointing Dayan Viciedo on a minor-league deal rather than investigate Ethier. The Red Sox almost have to trade an outfielder. The Padres almost have to trade an outfielder. Maybe the Rockies, too. Maybe the Diamondbacks, if and when they realize Yasmany Tomas isn’t a third baseman and having him in the outfield with Mark Trumbo, Ender Inciarte, David Peralta, Cody Ross, and A.J. Pollock is just too much. Supply is outweighing demand. Those are all problems.
Well, now you can maybe see another problem, because if Jon Heyman’s sources are to be believed…
The Dodgers have offered to pay down “about half” the $56 million remaining over three years on Andre Ethier‘s contract in efforts to trade him, sources familiar with the talks say.
…then they aren’t trying nearly hard enough. Half? That turns Ethier into a three-year, $28 million player, approximately $9 million a year. Maybe that sounds like a lot. It is a lot, I guess. It’s just not nearly enough, because Ethier’s not worth three years and $9 million per. He’s just not. I’m fully aware of the “2014 was just one bad year and he had a 120 wRC+ as recently as 2013” argument, and I’m not deaf to it. It’s just that we went over all of this two weeks ago. 2014 wasn’t a fluke. It was the culmination of a lot of trends, which is another way of saying, 2013 seems like the fluke.
Heyman goes on to point out that the Braves gave Nick Markakis four years and $44 million as reason that Ethier should be worth three and $27 million, but I’m not buying it. First of all, just about everyone outside of Atlanta thought that deal was straight insanity. Second, Markakis is nearly two years younger. Three, he’s regarded as a superior defensive outfielder, though I’ve clearly taken issue to that. Fourth, he didn’t just get benched by his own team.
Now, the projection systems all see Ethier as bouncing back to being a slightly above-average hitter, and maybe that happens — though that’s a big risk to take for an aging platoon lefty with questionable defensive value. Remember, also, that Nori Aoki, who is almost exactly Ethier’s age, who is also a lefty, who is coming off a league-average season, who has nearly the exact same offensive projections as Ethier but with far more defensive value, just signed for… one year, $4.7 million. Why would a team want to spend three years and $27 million for what might be at best, the same?
Ethier’s still a Dodger because the team has Yasiel Puig, Carl Crawford, Joc Pederson, and Scott Van Slyke ahead of him. Maybe Chris Heisey, too. He’s a Dodger because he’s under-performed his outsized contract. But he might also be a Dodger because the team isn’t actually doing everything it can to move him. Saying “we’ll eat half” is a start. Get that closer to 80%, or take back someone else’s expensive problem, and now you’ve got something. Otherwise, it’s going to be a long three years on the bench.