Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly claims that there are enough at-bats to go around for Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and Yasiel Puig (when they're all healthy, of course), but I'm not so sure there could be an effective rotation between the four outfielders.
When healthy, Kemp should be in the lineup every single night. Sure, he's only hitting .251/.305/.335 in 51 games this season, but he's a perennial MVP candidate when going right. Even Puig's ridiculous start shouldn't keep Kemp out of the lineup.
Crawford and Ethier could both be put in platoons with Puig as left-handed bats, but Crawford's speed could be too valuable to leave on the bench. He's actually hitting well in 51 games—.301/.358/.470—so it wouldn't be right benching him either.
Mattingly could have a legitimate case platooning Ethier with Puig, but my concern in this scenario is more for Puig. Why on Earth would Mattingly ever consider platooning Puig, a .455/.478/.773 hitter in 12 career games, with Ethier, who is one of the more disappointing players of the 2013 season?
Puig's out-of-this-world start comes from a small sample size, but it's hard to argue with four home runs and 10 RBI through 12 games. He won't keep this pace up for the remainder of the season, but even a .300 clip with the same run production would prove more valuable than Ethier.
Ethier has just five home runs and 18 RBI this season through 64 games. Puig almost has those numbers through 12.
Mattingly has been criticized this season for his managerial skills, but employing a platoon between Ethier and Puig (even if it's scheduled so Puig plays more) would be the icing on the cake. It's only logical to assume Puig will continue to hit above the league average (which was .255 in 2012, by the way). Whereas Ethier, who is hitting .244 on the season, seems lost at the plate.
Ethier will be a free agent at the end of the 2018 season and is currently in the midst of a six-year, $95.95 million deal. That's a lot of money owed to a player who can't seem to buy a hit, but the Dodgers should look to deal him given the emergence of Puig.
If Los Angeles is committed to winning and the future of the organization, then the team will give an everyday role to Puig, even when all four outfielders are healthy.
Ethier probably wouldn't fetch a large return in a trade given his numbers and contract. That being said, Los Angeles could recoup a few mid-level prospects (or possibly a major league bullpen arm) in a deal. Depending on how much of the contract the Dodgers choose to eat, the package could grow.
Puig's emergence makes this possible, and it's most definitely an avenue that the Dodger front office should explore prior to the July 31 trade deadline. Ethier has been scrutinized in Los Angeles over the past two seasons, and the team finally has a legitimate excuse to part ways with him.
Mattingly may have been right in the end after all—there will be plenty of at-bats for all four outfielders. Of course, the kicker here is that Ethier may be getting those at-bats for another team.
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