Los Angeles Dodgers 2012 Season Preview: Right Field

Coming off of a 2009 season full of late-game heroics, 2010 and beyond appeared to hold great promise offensively for Andre Ethier. However, a pinkie injury in ’10 followed by a knee injury last season – along with any existing offensive flaws and limitations that remained – threw a wrench in his plans. Limited to 139 and 135 games over the past two seasons, respectively, questions regarding attitude, desire, and his long-term future with the club have arisen and plagued the right fielder.

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Before we tackle the numbers, let me address those lingering questions involving intangibles, makeup, and the surly personality of Dre.

I couldn’t sincerely care infinitesimally less if Ethier is not the most pleasant athlete to be around. It does not matter one iota to me whether he wants to play with his college buddy Dustin Pedroia in the future, or even in the present for that matter. One thing, and one thing only, concerns me in my assessment of Ethier: is he going to produce enough to protect Matt Kemp and justify still being on this team?

Will Andre hit lefties at all? Will his fielding not be terrible (last year’s phony Gold Glove Award aside)? Will he ever post a WAR over 3.5? Can he stay healthy after battling multiple injuries over the last few seasons?

These are the things that give me pause with Ethier, the other stuff is just the icing on the cake of concern.

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2011 saw Ethier continue to flail at the plate against left-handers, putting up a line of .220/.258/.305/.563 with a 41/7 K/BB mark and just one long ball. In the field, Andre posted a 6.8 UZR/150, which was his best showing since 2007, which he then followed with three straight years of not just negative, but double-digit negative UZR/150s.

Dre’s overall slash line in ’11 checked in at .292/.368/.421/.789 with a .343 wOBA, and certainly some of that can be attributed to the knee injury he was dealing with. That being said, a 2.9 WAR (and never higher than his 2008 mark of 3.5) simply will not cut it for a guy entering his decline phase who is set to make just under $11 million this season as he settles into the cleanup spot behind The Bison and heads towards free agency in the winter.

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The question we should all be asking is what would the return on Andre be should he be sent packing on or before the trade deadline, as I think that would be the best contribution he could make to the Dodgers going forward. Selling low on him would be one thing, but there should still be sufficient interest considering how much weight things like hitting streaks and walk-off bombs carry with many a GM. Unfortunately, Ned Colletti desires to sign Ethier long-term, a truly scary proposition that frightens me when the subject in question is a guy heading into his age 30 season who can’t hit southpaws, is a range-lacking dud with the glove, and has dealt with multiple ailments the last couple of campaigns.

A long-term extension for Ethier would be extremely short-sighted on the Dodgers part. Ethier already makes an inordinate amount of money for the actual production he provides, and in a contract year his value could end up being even higher if he goes all Adrian Beltre on us (minus the consistently excellent defense Beltre provided). A 30-game hit streak, a handful of walk-off hits two years ago, and a gift Gold Glove – accompanied by the fact that there are enough mediocre GMs out there – should yield a good haul on the open market, and that’s a trade the Dodgers must jump on.

About Greg Zakwin

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