Andre Ethier hits jackpot with $85 million extension, but is he worth it?

Kevin Kaduk
Big League Stew

Two-thirds of the Dodger Stadium outfield is set to continue being a very familiar sight for the next five or six seasons.

After signing center fielder Matt Kemp to a monster extension last winter, the Dodgers came to terms on a new contract with right fielder Andre Ethier on Tuesday morning. Dylan Hernandez  of the Los Angeles reports it's a five-year deal worth $85 million. A sixth-year vesting option could boost  the contract's total value to $100 million.

Nice work, if you can get it, eh?

Kemp's deal was one of the last actions taken in the Frank McCourt era while securing Ethier is the first big deal for the new Magic Johnson ownership regime. You'd think a lengthy contract for Clayton Kershaw would be the next big order of business, but it's not the most pressing of issues after the ace signed a two-year deal worth $19 million this past offseason. He looks to be following Tim Lincecum's approach to pre-free-agency contracts.

So what to make of Ethier's new paper? It doesn't come as much of a surprise as both sides had been rumored to be working toward an extension with Ethier's free agency looming at the end of this season. He's been a great bargain for the Dodgers ever since they received him from Oakland in the Milton Bradley trade and both he and Kemp helped formed the backbone of the teams that reached the NLCS  in  2008 and 2009.

It makes sense that Dodgers ownership would want to keep the duo together, but there's a lot more skepticism being aimed toward this deal than there was with the eight-year, $160 million contract that Kemp signed last November.

That only makes sense, of course. Kemp's deal was awarded to a younger and more talented player and it really started to look like a huge bargain once Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder signed their $200 million-plus deals. Ethier's contract is a bit different as it's being given to a player who just turned 30 and it certainly doesn't seem like the Dodgers are saving that much money.

Also, as Matthew Pouliot of Hardball Talk points out, Ethier's list of comparable players through his age 29 season is less than inspiring. The top five is a who's who list of players that didn't age well. (Dmitri Young, Rondell White and Jacque Jones, come on down!)

Meanwhile, while Ethier's production since his rookie year in 2006 has been consistent, it's been far from superstar level. Fangraphs pegs him as the 23rd-most valuable outfielder since 2006 in terms of WAR, and Ethier's 17.8 wins ranks behind the totals of players  like Alex Rios (18.9), David DeJesus (18.5) and Nick Markakis (21.2). The website estimates that Ethier has provided $76.1 million worth of value for the Dodgers from 2006 to 2012.

Now, is it likely that Ethier will continue to post $76 million worth of value as he goes forward into his 30s? Probably not. But we all know that baseball's compensation system is set up to reward past performance instead of future production so the deal that Ethier just landed isn't that out of line. It's really just a drop in the bucket for a new ownership group that was willing to pay the going rate for the type of consistent outfield production that Ethier provides.

At the same time,  it's also the latest example that a $100 million contract has become commonplace and hardly noteworthy. While it's still a life-changing amount for those who sign it, these deals come packed with more buying power than any special message about the player who's signing it.

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