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June 12, 2012

Transaction Analysis

Dodgers, Ethier Agree to Extension

by R.J. Anderson

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LOS ANGELES DODGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Re-signed OF-L Andre Ethier to a five-year deal worth $85 million with a vesting option for 2018 that could make the deal worth $100 million.

After the Dodgers re-signed Matt Kemp and sold to a new ownership group, there were murmurs linking them to Josh Hamilton. The rumor made sense because Hamilton could replace the departing Ethier physically and financially. Ned Colletti put an end to at least one part of those scenarios today.

Ethier is a better hitter than you think he is. His True Average since 2009 sits at .301, placing him amongst bat-only stars like David Ortiz and Ryan Howard. Limit the comparisons to corner outfielders and names like Giancarlo Stanton, Matt Joyce, Nick Swisher, and Nelson Cruz enter the picture. Not only does Ethier hit well, but he hits consistently. His TAv has never slipped below .275 and has topped .290 in each of the past four seasons with a fifth season in range. Add in that Ethier is durable (having one disabled list trip in his big-league career) and there’s a lot to like here.

This is nothing but a head-nodding session if Ethier lacks flaws. He doesn’t, of course. The two noticeable blemishes in Ethier’s game are his defense and his inability to hit left-handed pitching. Everyone, save the Gold Glove award voters, seems to agree that Ethier is a below-average defender. Squint and perhaps you can see Ethier at first base down the road, though there is no indication that such a move is likely or imminent. As for southpaws, Ethier is hitting them better this season. That does not mean a new day is upon us, however, and it seems more likely that his improvement by virtue of a small sample.

No extension is complete without hemming and hawing over the financial figures. Ethier is being rewarded handsomely for being a consistently good player (his Wins Above Replacement Player totals seem locked in around three wins per season). Is Ethier worth this kind of investment? It isn’t an easy question to answer. Consider the Dodgers’ perspective. These are new owners taking over a club whose previous owner soured the fan base. Fan morale should be improved thanks to the club’s first-place standing, but locking up a large part of the team’s recent good times gains public relations points, too.

Re-signing Ethier can be a baseball decision as well. The Dodgers know the trade market better than outsiders and have access to the same free-agent lists as anyone with internet access. If they like Ethier more than the alternatives than who can blame them for securing their man before he hits the open market? Here’s something else to consider: the Dodgers know their own budget the best, and also know that the league might be flush with cash this offseason. It’s possible, not likely but possible, that Ethier’s deal looks prudent should teams splurge this offseason.

Even if the deal doesn’t win awards for being the most efficient usage of resources, the Dodgers should be happy to retain Ethier’s bat for an additional five or six seasons. 

R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here

Related Content:  Extension,  Dodgers,  Andre Ethier,  Ned Colletti

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