The Dodgers are (reportedly) willing to pay half of Andre Ethier’s contract! As Dave Cameron pointed out, he seems a bit superfluous to the current state of the Dodgers. Now that he’s only going to cost a team around $28 million over the next three years, can we find him a home?
Last year, Ethier was below average with the bat (overall and by power) and the glove in the outfield over more than 300 plate appearances. At 32 years old. Here’s the list of player-seasons over the last five years that had years like that since 2010, and were still above replacement:
That’s not an exciting list. Only Rajai Davis has bounced back to be a valuable semi-regular player, and he probably has more defensive value than Ethier — at least, he profiles better in center field despite some iffy numbers at the position.
Alex Rios might give us pause. He just got one year and $11 million from the Royals, who also felt inclined to include a team option for $12.5 million next year. Because of the structure of the deal, the max value is $21.5 million over the next two years. That suggests that Rios was *almost* valued as highly by the market as a three-year $28 million contract would value Ethier.
How do those two players compare?
Decently, actually. The numbers agree, though they point out that the skillsets are slightly different. Rios has been slightly more valuable over the last three years, but has put forth more of that value on the basepaths.
Considering that Ethier’s superior plate discipline should age better than Rios’ athleticism, and Ethier’s a year younger, it’s possible to look past the difference in wins accrued over the last three years.
The problem is that, if we call them comparable, the market just had a chance to get this player without spending an asset. And the market paid less than $28 million.
But let’s say that the Dodgers kick a little more in. Or a team likes that Ethier is younger and has better plate discipline. And wants the extra year at a cheaper rate as Rios got from the Royals. What team might we be talking about?
The Braves are sporting a hurt Nick Markakis, Zoilo Almonte, Eric Young, and Jonny Gomes right now on the depth chart, and could maybe use a veteran to bridge the gap to Dian Toscano. Right now, their corner outfielders are both bottom-five on the depth charts, and Ethier and Gomes would be a better platoon than Young and Gomes. If the Dodgers cover a little more than half, Ethier might be interesting to them. Might.
The Phillies have the ghost of Grady Sizemore, Doobie Herrera, Domonic Brown, and Darin Ruf manning two bottom-five corner outfield squadrons. Sizemore, Brown, and Ethier are all lefties, though. It’s a tougher fit.
One last team should get mention: the Rangers. They might be able to be more competitive than the other two teams, and a veteran corner outfielder like Ethier might be better than what they have currently. The problem is that it seems the Rangers have already made their bed — they have Ryan Ludwick, Nate Schierholtz, Michael Choice, Ryan Rua, Jake Smolinski, Delino Deshields Jr., and Carlos Peguero in camp playing in the corner outfield. Ethier is projected to be a one-win guy over 600 plate appearances next year, and some combo of those guys can probably do that for the Rangers, without costing them $28 million and a prospect.
And that’s really the problem. There’s just not a lot of demand for a free agent that’s not projected to be league average, especially at the corner outfield position. The teams that have openings there aren’t really great fits — by this point, they’ve collected a group of cheaper options that can approximate Andre Ethier’s probable output.
We tried, but it might be too much of a task. Andre Ethier may not have a regular home in any starting lineup this year.
With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.