Why Hanging On to Andre Ethier Is Not the Right Move for the Los Angeles Dodgers
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It is becoming very apparent that the Los Angeles Dodgers simply do not care how much money they spend on player contracts, but they have made a mistake in handing Andre Ethier a contract for what he has done instead of what he will do.
In June, the Dodgers signed Ethier to a $85 million, five-year deal through 2017, presumably wanting to keep the homegrown core of Matt Kemp and him together.
However, this isn't the right financial or baseball move when building a winning baseball team. It's obvious that the Dodgers don't care how much they spend to get wins, but that it just needs to happen, team-building strategies be damned.
Tying into that train of thought, there must be other ways—less reckless—to build a good baseball team.
Platoon Player on Decline
Andre Ethier is a very solid player with the ability to get on base and hit for power. However, he is entering his declining years in his 30s and has a proven inability to hit lefties.
In 2012, he hit slugged .330 against lefties and .546 against righties. To be blunt, he is a liability whenever he has to hit against lefty starters and against late-game bullpens.
Ethier is also a below-average fielder, owning a -2.2 UZR according to Fangraphs. He wasn't very good in previous years so there doesn't seem to be a sudden change in fielding on the horizon.
How Much Money Do the Dodgers Have?
I get that the Dodgers want to act like they have an unlimited amount of money to spend and fashion themselves as the Yankees West. That makes sense and is fair at this point in their owners' careers. Why not instill fear into teams like the San Francisco Giants and Arizona Diamondbacks?
However, there has to be a more prudent way to spend money. With Carl Crawford coming back sooner than later, the Dodgers face a logjam in the outfield. And not the good kind.
Crawford himself struggles against lefties, owning a career .309 OBP, and has struggled with injuries the past few seasons. Since the Dodgers swallowed most of the money in Crawford's contract, they are on the hook for a pair of declining platoon-type outfielders.
At a certain point, one has to wonder when the Dodgers will hit the ceiling in their payroll. I'm not one to advise general managers or baseball consultants, but they would fare better by spending their money on players who are able to produce immediately and in the future.
They're now on the hook for Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, Crawford, Ethier and Hanley Ramirez. Most, if not all of those, are declining players or hitters just past their primes.
Keep in mind that they still have to sign Clayton Kershaw in what would assuredly be a nine-figure contract in 2015. Or 10-figure. That's what they do now, right?
I get that Ethier is a fan favorite and has produced in past seasons, but players like Josh Hamilton and even Michael Bourn might be better signings at this point.
So far in the offseason, the Dodgers have decided to grossly overpay a relief pitcher in Brandon League a total of $22.5 million over three years. A relief pitcher!
Their starting rotation, outside of all-world stud Clayton Kershaw, now consists of Beckett, Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang and Ted Lilly. That's a lot of injury-prone, past-their-prime starting pitchers.
Heck, they weren't even that good in their heyday. With that said, the Dodgers still are looking to spend an enormous amount of money on mediocre hitting rather than shutdown pitching in the rotation and bullpen.
It doesn't look like they'll have immediate fixes unless they sign free-agent Zack Greinke in the offseason.
The 2013 season—and every season after, for that matter—is essentially playoffs or bust for the Dodgers.
It just doesn't make sense that they are spending their money on mediocre hitters like Ethier rather than ace pitching. It remains to be seen whether these moves will pay off for the Dodgers next season.
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