Ethier was inked to a contract extension just six months ago, but this is already the second time this off-season that his name has come up in trade rumors. The Dodgers owe the left-handed hitter at least $85 million through 2017 and the expectation is that the club would have to absorb a good amount of that number in order to move him.
The seven-year veteran has been extremely productive over the course of his career having posted an OPS below .800 only once, in 2011, and producing a career OPS+ of 124. He has averaged 18 home runs and 76 RBI per year since making his debut in 2006.
There are conflicting reports about how serious the Dodgers are about dealing Ethier. Ken Rosenthal cites a rival executive who told him that it’s not the Dodgers pushing to move Ethier, but that a pair of American League clubs have called Los Angeles to inquire on obtaining the two-time all-star.
As Rosenthal notes, Ethier has struggled against left handed pitching, making it unlikely that any club would want to pay the entire freight on that new extension he signed.
But, in the words of one source who has been in contact with the Dodgers, “I wouldn’t put anything past them. They’ve got so much money, they don’t care.”
Translation: The Dodgers could pay a significant portion of Ethier’s contract to facilitate a trade. The Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Atlanta Braves and Seattle Mariners are among the teams that could be in the market for outfielders.
It’s hard to fathom a franchise, any franchise, being so full of wealth that they could simply eat the vast majority of an $85 million deal and then go out an fill the hole they just created by signing another free agent. Michael Bourn is a guy that Rosenthal says would seem a great fit in LA, as the team lacks a lead-off man and would like to move Matt Kemp to right field.
Of course, Carl Crawford is more than capable of hitting at the top of the order, so I don’t see as clear a fit for Bourn, but I don’t doubt that shifting Kemp over to a corner spot is something the club would like. If nothing else, it should help to keep him a bit more healthy.
What is true, however, is that the Dodgers do have enough money to facilitate virtaully any deal they’d like. They are working toward finalizing a new local TV contract that would pay them between $260-280 million annually. Consider that the new luxury tax threshold that takes hold next year is set at $189 million. The Dodgers are playing with Monopoly money.
If this converasation were happening in early November, I’d give it a lot more possibility of actually happening. Now that many of the biggest free agent names are off teh board, however, it seems a lot less likely. Unless the Dodgers have a real jonesing for Bourn, moving Ethier doesn’t make much sense. The next-best free agent outfielder is Nick Swisher, who would be a downgrade from Ethier, who is still in his prime as a player.
I don’t doubt that Ethier will be traded at some point, but I think it’s highly unlikely that it happens before the end of the 2013 season.