Sunday, January 27, 2013
Ethier's offseason of speculation
By Jason Catania
Andre Ethier is the longest-tenured player on the Los Angeles Dodgers, just signed a five-year, $85 million extension last summer and is the club's only healthy starting outfielder. Yet the veteran has been mentioned frequently this winter as a potential trade candidate.
As MLB.com's Ken Gurnick writes, all the speculation hasn't bothered Ethier this offseason. Ethier noted that GM Ned Colletti told the player's agent that he wasn't being made available, according to Gurnick. But still, rumors swirled.
Earlier this winter, there were reports that the Dodgers could consider going after free agent Michael Bourn, who has yet to sign. The reasoning was that Bourn could be a dynamic leadoff hitter for a lineup that lacks one -- at least until Carl Crawford is ready to return from Tommy John surgery -- and also could handle centerfield, moving Matt Kemp to right field to unburden him and his surgically-repaired left shoulder from having to roam a larger portion of the outfield.
Ethier, though, is the lone Dodgers outfielder without any injury concerns, whereas both Kemp and Crawford are still focusing on their recoveries and actually may not be ready for Opening Day. The 30-year-old Ethier has endured various nicks and bruises over his career, but he's also been relatively healthy overall, having played at least 135 games in each of the past six seasons, including 149 in 2012.
Ethier is not a great defensive player, nor is he the top-notch offensive player he seemed to be turning into in 2009 when he hit 31 homers and drove in 106, and his strikeout (20%) and walk (8%) rates last year were career-worsts -- plus, he struggles against left-handers (.238/.296/.352 career) -- so it's maybe not without reason why the Dodgers might have at one time at least been open to the possibility of dealing him. But Ethier may wind up being important to the revamped roster, especially until both Kemp and Crawford are fully ready. Once that happens, though, perhaps the speculation will begin again.