5 Reasons Why Los Angeles Dodgers Should Keep Andre Ethier

Evan Budrovich@@evanbudCorrespondent IDecember 18, 2012

5 Reasons Why Los Angeles Dodgers Should Keep Andre Ethier

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    What will be the next domino to fall in the Los Angeles Dodgers' luxurious offseason? Word on the street is that the Los Angeles Dodgers are listening to offers for Andre Ethier

    The Dodgers' 30-year-old outfielder has spent his entire career with the team, amounting a career .290 batting average alongside 129 home runs. 

    With over $200 million invested in Carl Crawford and Matt Kemp over the next six years, the Dodgers may be looking for a less time-consuming investment in their final outfield spot. 

    Here are five reasons why the Los Angeles Dodgers would be foolish to trade Andre Ethier this offseason.

Ethier Is A Clutch Hitter

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    Andre Ethier held a career-high 3.5 WAR last season. The Dodgers were amongst the leaders in walk-off hits, with Ethier being a large part of that department in registering seven walk-off hits. 

    Although Ethier struggled against lefties this season, he was quite the hitter with runners in scoring position. Last season, Ethier hit .313 with runners in scoring position, including .290 with two outs. 

    With an expensive Dodgers lineup that struggles to hit in late-game situations, Ethier has historically been the main cog behind the team's late-game success. If the Dodgers trade Ethier, they will be losing one of the best situational hitters in the game. 

Contract Difficult to Dump

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    After signing the extension last offseason, Andre Ethier has $85 million remaining on his five-year contract extension and is signed through 2018.

    Unless the Dodgers are willing to eat a large portion of the contract, Ethier is essentially locked with the Dodgers for the foreseeable future. 

    Potential suitors such as Tampa Bay and Baltimore will not have the financial backing to sign Ethier. Large spenders like Boston and Texas will hesitate to give up talented prospects and pay a large amount of money just to land Ethier's services.   

    The Dodgers, meanwhile, seem to have no monetary limit under new ownership with large contracts flying in left and right. This current team has the financial backing to make any play with Either. 

    The team also seems reluctant to make any major move at this time. If the Dodgers want to truly cool down this offseason, as GM Ned Colletti claims, they will keep their starting right fielder.   

Dynamic Duo with Kemp

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    Andre Ethier was most effective this season when hitting behind the healthy Matt Kemp. When Matt Kemp went on his MVP-esque tear, Ethier was the man supplying protection.

    When Ethier played a similar role in the four slot this season, both men were outstanding. Ethier hit .297 with 10 home runs and 50 RBI during his 286 at-bats from that position. 

    Kemp, meanwhile, was in and out of the lineup for much of the season, missing 58 games total, but was very effective early in the year when Ethier was the main protection. In the month of April, Kemp smacked 12 home runs and drove in 25 runs. 

    The same could not be said once slugger Adrian Gonzales arrived and the Dodgers moved Ethier to the No. 6 slot in the lineup. Although that could be due to an overall struggle at the dish, the fact remains that Ethier and Kemp work well together back-to-back. 

Underrated Defensive Skills

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    For all the talk of great speed with Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford in the outfield, Andre Ethier is not too shabby of a defender for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

    Ethier is not the quickest outfielder, but he reads the baseball at an elite level, using his anticipation to cut off triples to doubles. In the last three seasons, Ethier has recorded only four errors in 721 chances. 

    In 2010, Ethier was top-five in the National League in outfield assists with eight, proving over his career an ability to use his arm effectively. The quality arm that Ethier possesses is undervalued in baseball, but possesses importance for stats like WAR. 

    Ethier does not possess a cannon, like Vladimir Guerrero, but do not discount the value of defense especially in the gap-friendly confines of Chavez Ravine. Plus, outside of Michael Bourn, who is a true center fielder, no better defensive fielder is available on the market this offseason.  

Strong Locker Room Presence

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    The biggest flaw in the Dodgers ballclub last season was a lack of cohesiveness in the locker room once big-name prospects arrived. With boatloads of potential sprinkled throughout the lineup, a leader must emerge to give Los Angeles fans hope for better things to come.

    Matt Kemp would seem the proverbial choice to fill that role given his MVP-caliber season in 2011 and his iconic personality. Kemp is undoubtedly the face of the Los Angeles Dodgers, but Andre Ethier is the true backbone of this ballclub. 

    Ethier has always been a class act in the game of baseball and exemplifies leadership and responsibility on a nightly basis. Going beyond the box score, Ethier is beloved by Dodger fans, possessing a similar aura to longtime catcher Paul Lo Duca.

    Granted stats are important, but trading a player with that much popularity among the fanbase could present a large ripple affect from Dodger Nation. It's a small part of the game, but leadership and a winning mentality can shape the course of a ballclub during the grind of a MLB season.