Sunday, May 26, 2013
What to do with Andre Ethier?
By Buster Olney
Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier is hitting just .258 this season with a .744 OPS
If the Los Angeles Dodgers want alternatives to outfielder Andre Ethier from their minor league system, they’ve got them. Yasiel Puig has made an enormous impression with his energy and with how hard he plays. However, he also has demonstrated an inability to paint within the lines with simple stuff -- baseball decisions, yes, but also issues like showing up on time.
If the Dodgers are looking for a more finished player, a more predictable personality -- and less dynamic -- Joc Pedersen is an option. He’s hitting .320 for Double-A Chattanooga, with 20 extra-base hits and a .931 OPS. Pedersen is a left-handed hitter, Puig is a right-handed hitter.
But the Dodgers probably need to commit to some sort of solution with the left-handed-hitting Ethier before they call up one of those young players, and rival officials think it’ll be incredibly difficult for them to trade Ethier unless they are willing to swallow a whole lot of money. To review, Ethier’s annual salary going forward:
2013: $13.5 million
2014: $15.5 million
2015: $18 million
2016: $18 million
2017: $17.5 million
2018: A $2.5 million buyout on a $17.5 million vesting option.
So as of today, Ethier is owed about $80 million on the five-year deal he signed less than a year ago -- mid-June of last year.
Ethier is 31 years old, and last season he finished with a .284 average, 20 homers and an OPS of .812. After going 0-for-4 against the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday, he’s hitting .258, with a .744 OPS. But what concerns some rival officials the most about Ethier is that they think he’s gradually become a candidate for a platoon. “He just can’t hit lefties anymore,” said one talent evaluator.
Ethier against lefties:
2007: .716 OPS, 11 extra-base hits and 22 strikeouts in 111 at-bats
2008: .692 OPS, 11 extra-base hits and 24 strikeouts in 136 at-bats
2009: .629 OPS, 13 extra-base hits and 39 strikeouts in 165 at-bats
2010: .625 OPS, 10 extra base hits and 36 strikeouts in 159 at-bats
2011: .563 OPS, 10 extra-base hits and 41 strikeouts in 141 at-bats
2012: .606 OPS, 15 extra-base hits and 63 strikeouts in 221 at-bats
2013: .729 OPS, 6 extra-base hits and 14 strikeouts in 50 at-bats
His early-season numbers against lefties in 2013 are actually some of the best of his career. But he is a different player against righties than he is against lefties, and while you could have a discussion about whether the Dodgers should have invested a long-term deal in a player with a distinct weakness, there’s no point now: It’s money spent.
The question is not whether the Dodgers would have to eat money to trade Ethier, the question is how much money they would have to absorb -- and given the length of Ethier’s remaining contract and his problem against lefties, some rival evaluators believe L.A. would have to turn him into a $7 million to $9 million per year player for another team. In other words, eat perhaps 50 to 60 percent of his deal. “In my mind, he’s a really good platoon player,” said one rival executive.
It would be a huge chunk, and the Dodgers could look for opportunities to swap Ethier’s deal in a trade of overpriced contracts. For example (and this is only speculation): For someone like the Toronto Blue Jays’ Mark Buehrle, who has a heavily back-loaded deal and will make $37 million overall in 2014 and '15, and who could benefit from a shift to the National League and Dodger Stadium.
If the Dodgers decide to simply bite down and eat a whole bunch of Ethier’s deal, well, then the list of potential suitors will grow: The New York Mets, who should be in the market for major league outfielders; the New York Yankees; the Pittsburgh Pirates, although any deal would have to be completely on Pittsburgh’s terms, because they have alternatives; the Texas Rangers, with David Murphy and Nelson Cruz headed for free agency; the Oakland A's, who are always shopping for bargains; the Baltimore Orioles, if the money is right and Buck Showalter lobbies for Ethier; the Chicago White Sox, who have to start preparing for some lineup turnover and could use a left-handed hitter.
Of all the teams listed here, the Mets make the most sense, because they have the greatest need and should have financial flexibility. But two things have to happen before Ethier is traded:
1. The Dodgers must decide Ethier is not going to be an effective player for them going forward, perhaps because of the expected unhappiness with a reduced role.
2. The Dodgers have to be willing to flush a whole lot of invested millions away. Sure, they have a lot of television money headed their way, the sort of cash that’ll make Ethier’s deal look like pennies. But admitting a mistake, and paying for it, is never an easy thing to do for successful people.
• The Giants had the coolest finish to a baseball game we’ve seen in a long time: Angel Pagan hit a walk-off inside-the-park homer for the Giants. It was his third career inside-the-park homer and second career walk-off home run. This is also the latest date for the first inside-the-park homer of the season since 1996 (Barry Larkin -- May 28 at Florida Marlins).
Giants third base coach Tim Flannery said before the game that he was ready to send someone on an inside-the-park homer, writes Alex Pavlovic.
• We’ve got the Atlanta Braves and Mets on "Sunday Night Baseball" (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET) at a time when Atlanta is on a serious roll: They’ve won eight straight games, including a doubleheader (of sorts) on Saturday.
Fredi Gonzalez continues to try to find ways to get Evan Gattis in the lineup. The slugger started in left field Saturday -- and after Atlanta took a lead, Gonzalez pulled him for defense in the fifth inning. David O’Brien writes about Gattis’ unbelievable numbers as a pinch-hitter.
Along the way, there was this for the Mets: Ike Davis got a hit.
• The Los Angeles Angels have turned it around in the past week. From ESPN Stats & Information's By The Numbers:
36 -- Angels have outscored their opponents by 36 runs, 54 to 18, during the win streak.
.312 -- Angels' batting average including 12 home runs (team was hitting .253 in previous 42 games)
During the win streak, Mike Trout has either scored or driven in 33 percent of the Angels' runs. His turnaround began before the team’s win streak as he’s hit .367 with eight home runs over his past 24 games.
It's Trout Season: 2013
1st 25 G
Last 24 G
Trout is 11 for his last 21.
ELIAS: Trout has scored two runs in each of his past five games, tying Drew Stubbs, Dexter Fowler and Austin Jackson for the longest such streak since 2008. The last player with six straight multi-run games was Alex Rodriguez in 1999. From ESPN Stats & Info: Josh Hamilton has cut down on his overaggression, and it's showing in his results. In his first 32 games, he was swinging at almost 60 percent of the pitches he saw, and more than half the time on the first pitch of an at-bat. He's cut way down on both numbers and his OPS is up more than 400 points.
On Saturday, Angels starter Mike Minor did everything right in the victory over the Mets (7.1 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 10 K -- plus he mashed a long home run). It was his second career game with 10 or more strikeouts. From ESPN Stats & Info, how Minor won:
A. He had great off-speed pitches: Batters went 0-for-12 with five strikeouts against everything other than his fastball (changeup, curveball and slider).
B. He got batters to miss: He had his highest miss percentage this season (34.0) and fourth-most since 2010. For context, his career swing-and-miss rate is 22 percent.
• For the White Sox, Jake Peavy was "the man." From ESPN Stats & Info, how Peavy won:
A. He has allowed three earned runs or fewer in 14 straight home starts (second-longest such streak of his career)
B. He pitched to contact: 48 percent of his pitches were put in play. That’s his most this season and well above his average of 34 percent since 2009. The White Sox didn’t make a single error Saturday.
C. He had success with his changeup: Peavy threw 24 changeups, second-most since 2009. Batters were 2-for-8 with two strikeouts in at-bats that ended against the pitch.
4. Colby Lewis pitched four innings, but his velocity topped out at 87 mph, writes Evan Grant. There is some early concern in some corners of the Rangers’ organization about whether Lewis will need more time to come back.
4. Domonic Brown was "the man" for the Phillies. It’s worth repeating: The weakness of this division will help to keep the Phillies in the race. They have a whole lot of games against the Marlins and Mets, so there is no need for them to overreact.
Other stuff • Umpire Jeff Nelson admitted that he missed a call Friday night. There really wasn’t much gray area. Personally, I think this was just a crazy play that only replay could catch. All three of the other umpires had other responsibilities -- with a runner rounding third, and a force play finishing at second base -- and wouldn’t necessarily have had an opportunity to see the play, even if they had the right angle.