May 6, 2015; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Andre Ethier (16) during the game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. Milwaukee won 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
It was only last season that the Los Angeles Dodgers found themselves with three overpriced outfielders, aging veterans not playing to the extent of their contracts and creating a log-jam for their talented future eagerly waiting in the minor leagues. These outfielders (Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp, and Andre Ethier) were all subject to a hot trade market during the offseason, but of the three it was only Kemp who departed the declining outfield trio of the Dodgers to the rival San Diego Padres. He was the veteran diamond in the rough last year, fueled by a sizzling second half and renaissance postseason of 2014.
2015 began with a fresh outlook for the boys in the blue. The Cuban All-Star Yasiel Puig headlined the outfield heading into the Dodgers’ Spring Training. The rise of rookie sensation Joc Pederson added another player to the mix, and alongside the stout presence of Scott Van Slyke coming off the bench the Dodgers became armed with the weapons they required to patrol the outfield green of Chavez Ravine.
Coming into this season the 33 year old veteran right fielder Andre Ethier did not appear to have a role with the team asides from being a vet off the bench. Questions on fielding ability and speed come with age, and unravel clouded judgement on Ethier being able to cover the spacious outfield. Time carried on and the proposed trade market everyone in baseball anticipated slowly crumbled. For an aging lefty hitter who struggles against left-handed pitching (batting only .184 against lefty starters in 2014), interest dwindles rather quickly.
It’s May. The Dodgers sit atop the National League West at a 21-10 record with a comfortable five game lead on the Kemp-wielding Padres. Unfortunately for the Dodgers former All-Stars Carl Crawford and Yasiel Puig are injured, and the timeframe of return for both players is still very much up in the air. With such luck an opportunity presented itself to Andre Ethier, who (at least for now) has secured a spot in the starting line up once again.
House That Hank Built
And Ethier is doing good. Real good, I might go so far to say, as I have been impressed with his ability to produce despite the adversity that has challenged him for the past year. Ethier is currently putting up a .284/.391/.532 slash line a little more than a month into the 2015 regular season, clubbing four home runs and driving in 10. He is even putting up a .308 average against lefties. Along with the power Ethier still possesses, the right fielder has showcased his arm and his glove.
What does this all mean? Well, the Dodgers have some choices they will have to make come the return of their injured outfielders. Puig will surely bring his flamboyant talents back to right field, but change will have to be made to compensate the over-encumbrance of outfielders. The trade market may heat up once again now that Ethier has displayed consistency in his play.
I think the Dodgers should take advantage of the veteran presence in the lineup. With Matt Kemp gone much of the current lineup does not seem familiar to the casual baseball fan, but Ethier gives stability. Perhaps trading him will grab a handful of potential prospects to bolster the future, but as of now the Dodgers are in full competition. If he stays consistent, keeping Andre Ethier may be the move the Dodgers want to make.