COMMENTARY | Well, that should just about do it for Andre Ethier's career as a Los Angeles Dodger. Yasiel Puig, through two games, has brought the excitement back to Dodgers' baseball -- no small feat for an underachieving, last-place team.
But the writing has been on the wall for awhile. Ethier hasn't been the same player he was even as recently as last season, but I'm wondering where the 2009 and 2010 versions went.
I've written a few times on my blog about the Dodgers needing to trade Ethier. Well, the time is finally here. I'm not talking about right this minute, but sometime this season. It's clear after just two games Puig should be in Los Angeles to stay.
What I'm about to lay out doesn't at all help Ethier's trade value in terms of fan perception, but there is reason to believe he'll progress to the mean.
Ethier is hitting better in 2013 against lefties, posting a poor .234 batting average. Compared to 2012 (.222) and 2011 (.220), that might as well be in the upper-200s. He has absolutely no power potential against lefties, hitting just 20 home runs against them in his career (compared to 113 against righties).
But the thing that's puzzling is his play against righties in 2013. He's hitting a putrid .236/.347/.358 against them. The .347 on-base percentage isn't horrible, but the other numbers are. There's not really much explanation for the struggles. He's healthy, isn't coming off any winter surgery and is playing every day.
He's hitting fewer line drives this season (21.3 percent) and more fly balls (40.7 percent). With the increased fly ball rate comes a decreased home run-to-fly ball rate of just 6.6 percent. That number was 14.1 percent in 2012. His struggles in the home run department aren't unlike the struggles Matt Kemp has dealt with this season.
But the numbers also dictate he's likely to go on a hot streak and his poor numbers will normalize. He is one of the streakiest hitters in the game. That's his saving grace and what should attract some teams before the July 31 trade deadline. And the Dodgers shouldn't trade him until he starts to hit even a little bit because his value has likely never been lower.
Which teams could be interested in his services? Well, whichever team ends up with him with get him for at least half price, as the Dodgers would have to pay roughly that much to make him more attractive to an acquiring club.
Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune proposes an Ethier-for-Adam Dunn swap. Such a trade makes more sense than expected for the Dodgers (if there's no money exchanged), but I'd expect the Dodgers would want something else of some value in return.
Dunn would provide the Dodgers with long-term salary relief and left-handed power off the bench. But he, like Ethier, is still being paid like an everyday player. While Dunn is horrific at the plate (.166/.252/.401), he still has 12 home runs.
The White Sox used a lot of draft picks on outfielders in recent years (Courtney Hawkins, Jared Mitchell, Trayce Thompson), but none of them are particularly close to the majors. Dayan Viciedo isn't much of a left fielder (or baseball player, overall) and Ethier could replace him in the Chicago lineup.
There could be some kind of unexpected match here if the White Sox can send even a half-way-decent reliever the Dodgers' way.
The Mets are literally running the likes of Rick Ankiel, Marlon Byrd, Lucas Duda and Mike Baxter into the Citi Field outfield. They could be interested in Ethier, if for no other reason to have a legitimate Major League player in their outfield.
Even if/when Ethier gets hot again, the Mets wouldn't have to give up top-quality prospects to obtain him. The Dodgers once had interest in David Murphy, but the Mets probably wouldn't be interested in trading their second-best hitter at this rate.
Honestly, a young catcher, middle infielder and a bullpen arm could probably get the job done.
The Pirates are 35-25 and in the thick of the National League playoff race (with 100-plus games remaining). They could be a sleeper team for Ethier's services.
The Dodgers and Pirates discussed a Chris Capuano-for-Joel Hanrahan swap before Hanrahan was dealt to the Boston Red Sox. Of all the teams on this list, the Pirates would probably require the Dodgers to pay more than half of Ethier's remaining contract.
Tony Sanchez is a guy the Dodgers could be interested in. Pair him with a bullpen arm and there could be a trade to be had here.
The Mariners were the team hottest on Ethier's trail this winter. There were a few times when it looked like a deal was almost done. Alas, Ethier is still in LA and the Mariners still aren't any good on offense.
My dream trade -- at this point -- would be a Nick Franklin-for-Ethier swap, but there's no way that happens. The best the Dodgers could hope for is a guy like Stefan Romero or some minor-league depth.
The Mariners could plug Ethier into left field right away. Safeco Field isn't hitter-friendly, but Ethier needs a change of scenery at this point.
If Ethier is looking for favorable hitting environments, this would be it. The Rangers, like the Mariners, had interest in Ethier this winter, though, nothing ever really materialized.
The Rangers don't have a lot of space for a guy like Ethier at this point, but if Nelson Cruz is somehow suspended for his involvement with the Biogenesis investigation, Ethier could prove to be an apt acquisition for them. Of course, they could just move Ian Kinsler to left field and plug Jurickson Profar in at second base, which is probably a net gain for the Rangers.
If the Dodgers and Rangers hooked up on a deal, of course LA would be interested in Mike Olt. But Olt is the team's best trade chip (not named Profar), so they might want to hold onto him for a better player.
No matter what happens the rest of this season, Puig is going to play his way into a full-time role with the Dodgers and Ethier will be the odd man out.
Thanks for the great years of service, Andre. But I think we both know it's time for a change.Dustin Nosler has followed the Dodgers from Northern California all his life. He's the founder of Feelin' Kinda Blue, a Dodger blog. He also co-hosts "Dugout Blues," a weekly Dodger podcast. Find him on Twitter @FeelinKindaBlue.
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