Should the Dodgers trade Andre Ethier?

Obviously, there is no right or wrong answer here. Andre Ethier is a good hitter, young, and is not going to make that much money in 2011. He is a fine player on any team.

But I would trade Andre Ethier.

Yes, I know he is a good hitter- and consistent as well. In 585 PA during the 2010 season he hit .292/.364/.493/.367/133 which is almost identical to his career averages of .291/.363/.491/.364/126. Moreover, his periphs have not changed. From his walk rate to his batted ball data, to his plate discipline, his 2010 numbers are near identical to his career totals. So I don’t see a performance decline in the foreseeable future.

I would trade Andre Ethier because of what I like to call “Brad Hawpe Syndrome”. He SUCKS at fielding his position. In 5656 career outfield innings, Andre Ethier has a -33.2 UZR. The older he gets, the worse his range and glove should get. DRS has not been kind to him either, rating him as -11 during his career- and -27 over the past three seasons.

The result of his poor defense is an average overall value. Despite being a very good hitter, his defensive misgivings have led to a WAR’s of 2.1, 1.7, 3.4, 2.7, and 2.2 since joining the Dodgers in 2006. Even though he is a high quality offensive player, as a whole Ethier is slightly above average. While any team can use an above average player, it would be smart for the Dodgers to parlay Ethier into something more valuable.

In my opinion, I’d assume a vast majority of ML teams value Andre Ethier a lot higher than the numbers suggest, because he is becoming a star offensively. With a salary of $9.5mil in 2011, I would assume other teams would overpay for the 28 year old right fielder. Right now the Dodgers don’t look like they’ll be a very good team in 2011, so losing Ethier’s production won’t hurt them too much.

If Ethier is a 2.5 WAR player in 2011 and earns $9.5 mil, his net value would be around 0. Yet I would imagine the Dodgers would receive some high end prospects in return for Ethier. For an aging team that needs an overhaul of the minor league system, this trade could be a good start.

HOWEVER- there could be another way to handle Andre Ethier. Make him a first baseman.

Yes, the Dodgers already have a 26 year old first baseman in James Loney. But in just under four full seasons, he has a career WAR of 6.5. He’s only had one season north of an average WAR, and that was 2.1 in 2007. That’s not cutting it for a first baseman.

Andre Ethier loses a ton of value because of his defense. But at first base his defense will be much improved. Even if he isn’t a good first baseman, I highly doubt he will as much as 1.5 wins there, like he loses in the outfield right now. Granted the positional adjustment for first is worse than the outfield, but it’s a smaller disparity than the expected disparity in the defensive switch. As a result, Ethier can become a more valuable player has a whole (I’m thinking around a 3 WAR player compared to 2 WAR player) and his bat will still play at first base.

Then when his contract runs up after 2011, you can see if you can re-sign him at an affordable price, or let him walk for a presumable two draft picks.

Even though there are no rumors surrounding Ethier and I doubt LA trades him (because they probably consider him their best player) I think he is an interesting case. The Dodgers should make the most of the situation and trade him while his value around the league, or make him a first baseman to limit his defensive liability. Otherwise, the Brad Hawpe Syndrome could strangle the Dodgers, much like the Rockies eventually became strangled by Brad Hawpe this past season.

 

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