With free-agent outfielders like Josh Hamilton, Nick Swisher and Cody Ross falling off the board, a team that desperately needs an upgrade in the outfield—like the Seattle Mariners—would understandably turn to the trade market.
According to a report from Fox Sports insiders Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi, Mariners' GM Jack Zduriencik has done just that.
While the two reporters acknowledged that the talks hadn't progressed, that doesn't mean that Zduriencik can't still get on the phone and persuade the Los Angeles Dodgers to send them right-fielder Andre Ethier.
With such a bloated payroll (thanks to the likes of Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp, Zack Greinke—you get the idea), the Dodgers may actually come around to the idea of dealing a guy like Ethier, who makes an average of $17 million per season, yet is no longer absolutely necessary for the Dodgers to win.
The Mariners could also hold on to a prospect or two if they agreed to eat most of, or all of, Ethier's annual salary.
The question that remains now, however, is should they attempt to make that kind of trade.
On the positive side, there's the fact that Ethier can hit.
Since making his debut at the major league level in 2006, Ethier has never hit for an average lower than .272.
His OPS has only ever dipped below .800 once.
Those numbers should look great to Seattle fans, after their outfield combined for the lowest OPS among all American League teams and their best outfielder hit .260.
Even Ethier's numbers in his down year of 2011 were more impressive than those of Michael Saunders in 2012 (with the exception of the home-run category).
Another positive about this potential trade would be that Ethier is signed through the 2017 season.
This means that the Mariners would have a reliable bat locked up for when they are ready to compete in a few years' time.
On the downside, there's the price tag.
No matter how you slice it, the Ms are going to pay.
Do you give up a better package of young players to convince the Dodgers to eat some salary, or do you use that payroll flexibility to pay his entire salary and keep more of your young talent?
Then there's the question as to whether or not paying $17 million to Ethier through 2017 is a better option than just holding on to the extra cash and waiting until next year's free-agent class, which will include the likes of Jacoby Ellsbury, Curtis Granderson, Corey Hart and Shin-Soo Choo.
Sure, some of those guys will cost more per season than Ethier, but if Seattle thinks that it has a reasonable shot at landing any of those players without having to give up any of its prospects, it may be smart to hold off and wait until next offseason.
For now, it doesn't appear as though trading for Ethier is a strong possibility, but should the opportunity arise, the decision won't be an easy one for Zduriencik and the Mariners.
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