What has become more and more evident for Dodgers fan over the last 18 months is that right fielder Andre Ethier will never be as good as his triple crown start to the 2010 season. Some could argue that he might not even be better than a slightly-above-average right fielder.
After a breakout 2009 season that saw him lead the Dodgers to the NLCS on the strength of 31 home runs and 106 runs batted in, he started the first quarter of 2010 on fire ranking among the NL leaders in batting average, homers and RBI. A wrist injury sidelined him and sapped him of his power, killing any momentum he had created for himself.
With his statement of, "This may be my last year here," in spring training of 2011, despite being under team control for the 2012 season, the writing seemed on the wall that a change was needed. A lackluster 2011 campaign that saw his OPS drop to a career low means that his value may be at its lowest.
However despite all the negatives: age (30 in the 2012 season), injuries (elbow, wrist, finger), salary (est. $12 million) and attitude (long documented as the most self-involved of the team's core players), what the Dodgers have is a player who has shown to always be a solid corner outfielder with the piece of mind that he can only be a one-year investment if need be.
Here we will look at the top five trade candidates for the Dodgers right fielder and we will look at what exactly fans could/should expect in return.
Potential Return: OF Andre Ethier plus cash considerations for OF Fernando Martinez
Reason: With the Mets in need of rebuilding their image and with a little money to spend, they would appear to be a great landing spot of Ethier. He helps fill immediate needs in right field and in the lineup, offering a nice component around third baseman David Wright and rebounding left fielder Jason Bay. The Mets also have a few on-the-cusp outfield prospects who can fill right in as well as having a few players on their roster to provide outfield depth (Daniel Murphy and Justin Turner).
In return the Dodgers receive a solid prospect who has all the potential in the world but has yet to show himself as a true player. The Mets have seemed to sour on Martinez a bit, not giving him much time in the lineup despite the trade of Carlos Beltran. Los Angeles could also use the money saved on filling some other needs on the team such as a third baseman. Can you say, "Goodbye, Andre. Hello, Aramis?"
Potential Return: OF Andre Ethier plus cash considerations for P Andy Sonnanstine and INF Hak-Ju Lee
Reason: In need of a impact corner outfielder for years, the Tampa Bay Rays finally add that piece by acquiring right fielder Andre Ethier. Money was not an issue as with the departure of Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez, they had the funds to afford arguably a better player in Ethier. This seems to be a now-or-never year, as several of the top Rays players are entering their last year under team control, while several other players will be possible free agents.
Coming to Los Angeles is an expendable top infielder prospect and arbitration-eligible pitcher who has become a swing man recently. In shortstop Lee, the Dodgers get the player Tampa Bay coveted in the Matt Garza deal but was passed up on the totum pole by former No. 1 overall pick Tim Beckham. Lee had some trouble after a promotion to Double-A but has all the tools to be a solid major leaguer. Pitcher Andy Sonnanstine could never find that magic that led him to a 13-9 2008 season as well as gaining wins in his first two playoff starts. In 2011, he only saw action in 15 games, and will be looking to rebound from a disappointing campaign.
Potential Return: OF Andre Ethier plus cash considerations for 3B Stephan Parker and SP Ian Krol
Reason: Former Oakland farmhand Andre Ethier will return to where he came from in a deal that seems very similar to the trade that sent him to Los Angeles. The forever-offensively challenged club Oakland A's will replace the departing Josh Willingham and David Dejesus, while giving up two players who they feel are expendable. Ethier will benefit from going to an organization that believed in him when he was first entering pro baseball.
Instead of getting a 24-year-old Double-A outfielder, this time the Dodgers get a 24-year-old third baseman who is coming off a solid campaign, while also getting a project left-handed pitcher. In Stephen Parker, the Dodgers add depth at a position where they are very weak, as well as adding a player who could explode with power after hitting 30 doubles in Double-A. Starting pitcher Krol was the 2010 Organizational Pitcher of the Year who couldn't return but for a few innings after hurting his forearm in spring training. With the Athletics' depth of young pitching, he can be considered movable.
Potential Return: OF Andre Ethier and SP Aaron Miller for 1B Lars Anderson and 3B Will Middlebrooks
Reason: Always thought to be a perfect landing spot for right fielder Andre Ethier, the Boston Red Sox paid a heavy price to acquire a player they feel is perfect for their ballpark. Ethier replaces the departing J.D. Drew, who also played for the Dodgers before going to Fenway Park. This will be the perfect bounce-back situation for Ethier, a player who could fit perfectly into right field and fall in love with the short corner. Former supplemental draft pick Aaron Miller will help fill refill the deplete Boston minor league pitching ranks.
The Dodgers gain two players who could make immediate impacts on the 2012 team in first baseman Lars Anderson and third baseman Will Middlebrooks. Anderson has found it tough finding playing time with several established All-Stars in found of him on the Boston depth chart. He will immediately step into the lineup, as current Dodgers first baseman James Loney is a candidate for non-tendering this winter. In Middlebrooks, they get a superb third baseman who had a breakout 2011 season that saw him crush Double-A pitching. Expect him to be a solid major leaguer in the coming years for those who bleed blue.
Potential Return: OF Andre Ethier for SP Brandon Beachy
Reason: Looking to rebound from a shocking and disappointing 2011 season, the Atlanta Braves add a much needed big bat in corner outfielder Andre Ethier. Ethier allows the Braves to be able to shift Martin Prado back to his super-utility position, while also allowing them not feel the need to force feed Jason Heyward into right field every day.
With what seems to be an unlimited wealth of young, starting pitching, the Dodgers are able to grab staring pitcher Brandon Beachy from Atlanta. Though not an ace, Beachy was a respectable 7-3 with a 3.68 ERA in 25 major league starts, striking out nearly 11 batters per nine innings. He can be slotted behind Clayton Kershaw, somewhere between Chad Billingsley and the returning Kuroda, to make for one of the best 1-through-4 in the National League.