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The Los Angeles Dodgers May Need to Trade Andre Ethier

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COMMENTARY | With the impending return of Matt Kemp to the lineup, the Los Angeles Dodgers will have three everyday outfielders with Andre Ethier and Yasiel Puig out there alongside him. This alignment will look great for awhile, but what's going to happen when Carl Crawford returns from the disabled list in a few weeks?

Instead of waiting around to deal with that question, the Dodgers should trade Ethier.

It's the deal that makes the most sense for Los Angeles right now. Kemp, despite his struggles this season, has become the face of the franchise and isn't going anywhere. There was also talk of Puig being demoted back to the minors but that move would be seen as a mistake by many as he has been the Dodgers' best player ever since he arrived in the big leagues three weeks ago.

That leaves Ethier and Crawford as the two guys who could potentially be offered in a trade. While Crawford has a much better batting average and provides more speed than Ethier, he is still weeks away from returning to the field. He is also due a hefty $20 million this season. Those last two factors severely hamper his trade value.

Ethier's stats, on the other hand, don't look as good from afar. He is only batting .255 this year with the same home run total (5) as Crawford. But upon closer inspection, his recent numbers - .433 average over the last eight games - could attract the attention of possible suitors. Moreover, Ethier has displayed elite durability by playing in 68 of the team's 71 games entering this weekend. He is also set to make $7 million less than Crawford this season.

If the Dodgers do decide to move Ethier, they should seek out quality relief pitching in return. The bullpen has been a major concern for Los Angeles this season, with a collective earned run average that ranks No. 26 in baseball. Opening day closer Brandon League has already been yanked from his ninth-inning duties after multiple blown saves and Kenley Jansen already has one hiccup as his replacement.

There are several solid relief pitchers out there that are toiling away on teams that don't figure to compete for anything this year. Minnesota Twins' closer Glen Perkins has an impressive 2.28 ERA to go along with an even better 40:6 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The dependable Steve Cishek of the Miami Marlins has only 11 saves but that's because his team has only 23 wins overall. Some better teams may also be intrigued by the possibility of adding Ethier in exchange for bullpen help. Tyler Clippard had 32 saves last season as the Washington Nationals' closer and has still maintained a 2.35 ERA this season in a set-up role.

The Dodgers are going to need to address their late-inning issues eventually if they want to make a push in the National League West, which is still up for grabs. The best way to do so would be to flip Ethier for some reliable arms for when the going gets tough. By making this trade, Los Angeles will also be able to avoid the inevitable dilemma of having four everyday outfielders and only three spots in which to put them when Crawford comes back.

Nick Ostiller was born and raised in Los Angeles. He is the editor-in-chief at The Santa Clara and an assistant in the sports department at KNBC Los Angeles. He has also worked for Outlook Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @nicko229.

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