January 2, 2013
Wednesday, January 2
The Indians rang in the new year by fortifying their rotation with a one-year contract for Brett Myers, but most other teams stood pat over the holiday, and there are now only 39 days remaining before the first pitchers and catchers report for spring training. Here’s a look at the other stories that made the rounds as the calendar flipped over to 2013.
Mariners make progress in bid to acquire a bat
Churchill is the only writer with the scoop at this point, but he has ties to the Mariners, and Ethier is a logical target. CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweeted three days earlier that there was “no real evidence” of Ethier being on the block, and it’s unclear whether the progress that Churchill reported implies active negotiations between Zduriencik and Ned Colletti or merely indicates that Ethier has become available. Meanwhile, FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi confirmed that Zduriencik’s search is reaching far and wide, though Seattle’s shot-in-the-dark inquiry about the Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton seems fruitless.
A bid for the 30-year-old Ethier is more reasonable, because his five-year, $85 million extension diminishes the player return that Colletti can seek. Ethier was worth 2.3 WARP in 2012, after foregoing his final year of arbitration eligibility with a $10.95 million agreement, and his salary will bump up to $13.5 million for 2013. That’s a fair invoice for now, but the backloaded contract—which calls for $18 million checks in 2015 and 2016—carries significant risk. The gamble may not trouble the deep-pocketed Dodgers, who could eventually hand right field over to Yasiel Puig, but it is a hindrance for teams like the Mariners, who are weighing a long-term commitment.
Ethier is an outstanding hitter against right-handed pitching, with a .352 TAv in 2012 and a .338 mark for his career, but lefties are his Kryptonite. His lifetime TAv (.227) is more than 100 points lower versus southpaws, and he mashed only four home runs in 239 plate appearances against them last year.
Ethier’s rate stats also stir concerns about his future performance at the plate. Often hitting in the middle of manager Don Mattingly’s order, Ethier saw a decline in his walk rate coupled with a surge in his strikeout rate last year, which led to his lowest on-base percentage since 2007. He was a solid offensive contributor in the aggregate (.305 TAv), but if those trends continue, Ethier may not remain an above-average everyday outfielder for much of his five-year extension.