The Andre Ethier conundrum

There’s been much discussion, initiated by this post by Steve Dilbeck at Dodgers Now, about whether the Dodgers should offer Andre Ethier a contract extension before the season starts.

Dilbeck frames things properly: “If the Dodgers believe in Andre Ethier, if they are confident he will rebound and have a successful 2012 season, they need to sign him to a long-term contract. Like soon.”

In other words, if you think he’s your guy, there’s no better time to extend Ethier than coming off a relatively poor season.

One problem, though, is that even if the Dodgers believe in Ethier, the two parties might disagree considerably about his value and simply be unable to come to terms in March. At Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness, Mike Petriello illustrates in detail the difficulty of pegging Ethier’s future value.

The other problem, as Chad Moriyama writes, is maybe you shouldn’t believe in Ethier.

“While I’ve always liked Ethier, as he felt a part of the young core, the timing is all wrong for me,” Moriyama says. “Locking up a corner outfielder with a four year declining trend in wOBA, mediocre defense (despite the joke of a Gold Glove), the inability to hit lefties, and questionable athleticism just isn’t a risk I’d feel comfortable with. Sorry, but when I look at the type of player Ethier is, I can’t help but envision Brad Hawpe and his precipitous decline at age 31.”

One thing I just happened to notice in passing that I hadn’t realized before: Did you know Ethier finished 12th in the National League in on-base percentage last season? If you adjusted for park effects, he would rank even higher.

And off we go …

  • Bill Shaikin of the Times notes that the second cut of Dodger ownership contestants is looming. Shaikin also wrote recently about how Frank McCourt’s shenanigans have made things difficult for the San Diego Padres.
  • The 2012 Dodgers project iffily, concludes Eric Stephen at SB Nation Los Angeles.
  • Dustin Nosler of Feelin’ Kinda Blue wants the Dodgers to bid on 19-year-old Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler. (Nosler, by the way, interviewed me for his site and posted it here.)
  • You might think you know Dodger Stadium, but you don’t know it better than Kevin Waters. Who’s Kevin Waters? Let Jon SooHoo explain …
  • More from SooHoo – a fan’s attempt to catch a foul ball, a reunion of Henry Rodriguez with Raul Mondesi and Ramon Martinez from 1998 and a Father’s Day photo of the Tony Gwynns.
  • Lots to choose from at Baseball Prospectus today, but we’ll start with this appreciation by Steven Goldman for Fernando Valenzuela’s rookie season.
  • A day ago, the piece de resistance at Baseball Prospectus was this: Sam Miller’s recap of “the worst game of 2011.”
  • Ramon Ortiz, still kicking, signed a minor-league deal with the Giants.
  • Fox’s Saturday broadcasts will start at 4 p.m. Pacific for eight consecutive weeks from May to July. I have more details in this Variety piece, where you’ll see a highly veiled reference to Jonathan Broxton’s Waterloo weekend against the Yankees.
  • Lucas Giolito and Max Fried, the two Harvard-Westlake pitchers who are expected to be top picks in the 2012 MLB amateur draft – with Giloito potentially becoming the first righthanded prep pitcher to go at No. 1 – are profiled by Eric Sondheimer of the Times.
  • An idea I floated Wednesday on Twitter: New York can have Linsanity, Dodger Thoughts might be stuck with Jonsanity, but with its new starting shortstop, Los Angeles should start hoping for Deerangement.
  • Anonymous

    I have always thought it was too convenient to point at the New York Yankee series as the lynchpin to his decline but I understand why some do.

    • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

       It might be convenient, but do you have a better explanation?

      • http://underdog.typepad.com/ underdog

        Torre-itis?

        • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

           That’s not a different explanation.

          • http://underdog.typepad.com/ underdog

            A more marketable name for the same thing! /applies for marketing jobs

      • Anonymous

        Matt Stairs?
         
        Though I don’t buy his mental condition as a reason for decline.  I’d be willing to bet that if he is healthy, he has a strong rebound this year in KC.

        • Anonymous

           I have mixed feelings about how I want him to do this year.  For his sake, I hope he does well,  but if he does really well then I’ll wish the Dodgers stuck with him longer.  Though I do think they had good reasons to not resign him and he had good reasons to leave.  On the whole, I hope he does have a good rebound.

  • http://underdog.typepad.com/ underdog

    I generally like the idea of locking Ethier up, too, even if it involves having a bit of faith here given his decline. But much of that decline, I believe, was injury related and it sounds like he’s gonna be healthy again this season. That said, a) not sure he’d agree to what Dilbeck suggests as $, and b) Chad makes good points about the timing being risky. How about at least waiting a bit into the season to see how he looks and feels, and giving it some time to work out something? Plus, new ownership soon, etc. 

    I would love, love it if the Dodgers signed Soler, that would be a splash indeed. $20 mil does seem a tad… risky, though. But they need to reassert themselves internationally. Can’t tell from those articles when he officially be free agent but sounds like, from Cespedes situation, that it would be a month or so. Also doesn’t sound like Dodgers are even looking at him though. :(

    • Anonymous

      The question would be how much and how many years will it take to lock him up.  I certainly don’t see any minor league options (excluding Sands) that would be capable of producing at his level.
       
      From what I’ve read, Soler is a big time prospect, but just that, a prospect. Not yet at even the level of Cespedes, who still needs to cut down on his strike outs.  Too raw to play in the majors the next couple of years.
       
      If Ethier can be locked up for say 4 years, $50-60 mil, then I agree with underdog.

      • KT

        or 5 years $75-80

    • http://www.feelinkindablue.com/ Dustin Nosler

      I’m sure the Dodgers aren’t even considering Soler, which is a shame. Ben Badler of Baseball America said his power is a 65 and he could even go to 70 on that. It’s not like the Dodgers have a lot of power potential in their system, and one of the best power guys — Kyle Russell — doesn’t make enough contact to be a regular.

      I’m long past expecting the Dodgers to do logical things with the current regime. Hopefully things will change with the new ownership group.

  • Anonymous

    If adjusted for a full season what is Ethier’s OBP?

    • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

       Rate stats are the same no matter how many games you adjust them for.

  • http://twitter.com/careyrobertson Carey Robertson

    His cons outweigh he pros in my opinion. At times he has an elitist/privileged attitude, he goes about airing out his frustrations wrong in the media, he’s had fluctuating success, 30, coming off knee surgery. I just don’t think it’s wise to give him much in years or money.

    Thank god McCourt is gone. He’d resign him for the simple fact he’d make a killing off the lady jersey sales. 

  • Anonymous

    Don’t underestimate the lady jersey sales (or attendance).  I still think Ethier will rebound, but maybe not as much as he thinks he deserves for a long-term deal.  

    Dee Gordon isn’t a good parallel with Jeremy Lin.  Gordon is a highly touted prospect; Lin came out of nowhere.

    • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

       It doesn’t have to be a parallel to be a fun play on words and to make millions off the T-shirts!

      • Anonymous

        I don’t know about millions.  Maybe tens.  LOL

        Plus there are too many one-offs:  Dee-lightful.  Dee-fense.  Dee-struction. 

        • Anonymous

          Dee plane, Dee plane, Deecorinthion leather

          • Anonymous

            Let’s hope it is not Dee-motion or Dee-grade, in which cases this could be a very long season.  I’m voting for Dee-lightful or Dee-cisive.

  • Anonymous

    Ethier may have been 12th in OBP, but he was also 8th among NL RFs in wRC+, separated by a hair’s breadth from Jon Jay, Bruce, and Seth Smith who trail him. Problem with Ethier isn’t that he may get worse. He is already not very good.

    • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

      Can’t say I’m a big fan of someone using this alias – or any alias of an actual active member of the baseball world.

      • Anonymous

        Well let’s hope the day when McCourt is not an active member of the baseball world comes upon us very soon. 

        • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

           But why choose that screen name?

          • Anonymous

            I guess he knew it would be available Jon!

          • Anonymous

            Let’s hope it really is an alias.

          • Anonymous

            I prefer that it be the real Frank

      • Anonymous

        Not a fan of that alias either but then I never liked Mike Scoscia’s tragic illness as an alias either.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Terry-Pruett/1707390003 Terry Pruett

    My main problem with Ethier over the past couple of seasons has been his platoon split, which is a gaping chasm. To me, at his age, a major long term investment makes no sense, particularly when he actually HURTS the Dodgers against lefties. I am not looking at the numbers, so forgive any misperception here, but it seems to me that his platoon splits began to widen as he became more and more power conscious…”cheating” to get the bat head out front. At the beginning of his career my perception of him was that of an all fields, line drive machine, productive against both lefties and righties, who’d hit about 15 dingers per year with a solid OBP.

    • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

       Well, he didn’t appear to be trying to hit for more power last year, but his platoon splits only got worse, right?

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Terry-Pruett/1707390003 Terry Pruett

        As I said…it was just an impression.

    • Anonymous

      He’s always been awful against lefties. Even during his fluke 2009 season, he hit .194 against lefties. In almost 200 PAs, sadly. 

  • http://www.onlytwopeople.com/blog Matt Worland

    My hope would be for a strong season and then flipping him at the trade deadline with some young arms for the best player out there, signing them to the extension. He’s made it clear several times he’s looking to play someplace else, I wouldn’t even count on him signing an extension.

    • Anonymous

      Ethier, being from AZ, might want to sign there but I am guessing he would prefer to go to Boston and play with his friend Pedroia.  Maybe an Ethier for Crawford trade could be figured out.  Yankees still have a young catching prospect the Dodgers would want and the Yankees want a lefty DH and probably pitching.

    • Anonymous

      At best he has given the impression, he certainly has not made it clear.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=713935344 Jason Ungar

    If Ned is the Gm I’d like to see him locked up because I have no faith  that Ned  would use that money wisely and get better players. If he isn’t the GM, use that money and go get better players. 

    • Anonymous

      I’d like to see Ned locked up even if he is not the GM.

  • Greg Yaris

    First of all, nothing can happen until new ownership gets here.  Second, doesn’t Ethier feel like the second coming of Jason Bay?  He’s exactly the type of guy you are supposed to run from when he asks for 5 years $70M.

    • Anonymous

      Jason Bay pre-Mets was twice the player Ethier has been, and that’s including his 2009.

  • Anonymous

    The Dodgers have several very
    good outfielders in their Minor League system (Alfredo Silverio, Scott Van
    Slyke, Kyle Russell, Alex Castellanos, Blake Smith, Angelo Songco, just to name
    a few). Granted it will take a year or two for these kids to be MLB ready, but they are very good options as
    replacements for Ethier; not to mention A LOT cheaper.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Terry-Pruett/1707390003 Terry Pruett

      By every measure I’ve read, none of these players is considered a real top-of-the-line prospect. That could change, of course, but there’s no Mike Trout in there. Any replacement for Ethier would probably have to come via either trade or free agency.

      • http://underdog.typepad.com/ underdog

        You’re right about the first, but not necessarily right that none of those guys could potentially replace Ethier. It’s true the Dodgers, especially with new ownership, will probably want to make a bigger splash than just handing all openings to prospects and instead try to sign a big name free agent. Of course, there may not be one that fits. They could also re-sign Ethier ultimately. And… depending on their next GM, let a couple of those guys battle it out. Quite a few of them have very intriguing bats and could break out this year. They may not be Trout, but very few prospects are these days and some good Dodger players from the past have ranked about the same as that group above.  

        And heck, Ethier–wasn’t he about the equal of Castellanos or Van Slyke as a prospect? Won his league’s hitter of the year award once I think and was well-regarded, but not all that buzzed about either. 

        • http://www.feelinkindablue.com/ Dustin Nosler

          Ethier was always pretty well-regarded. He was the Athletics’ No. 4 prospect when the Dodgers traded for him. He was a second-round pick while Castellanos was a 10th-round pick and Van Slyke was a 14th-round pick. He wasn’t a top outfield prospect, but he was regarded higher than Castellanos and Van Slyke ever were.

  • http://underdog.typepad.com/ underdog

    The Great Lakes Loons’ local paper says (in part by way of CNN.com) that four of the Dodgers biggest questions heading into the season are former Loons (Guerra vs Jansen, Sands, Silverio).
    http://www.mlive.com/loons/index.ssf/2012/02/los_angeles_dodgers_biggest_qu.html

  • Anonymous

    Looking at it from from a business prospective I can’t help but agree with most, declining years, fresh-of hip surgery how much value (over time ) is Ethier going to bring to the table?

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    NPUT