Rumor Mill: Andre Ethier to the Mariners in a sizable trade would make sense

AndreEthierExtension

Despite all the denials, Andre Ethier‘s name continues to come up in trade rumors, and given what I’ve heard, I don’t think it’s just noise. The latest has him heading to the Mariners, and it’s via ESPN‘s Jason Churchill (1, 2, 3).

Hearing Mariners have progressed in trade talks for a hitter. Indications it’s Ethier. Multiple players involved.

@nbynwms very possible. Heard 7 or more players could be in it… Two from LAD, 4 from sea. That leaves at least one player from 3rd team

@joshuacarpino there will be cash involved

If you don’t trust Churchill, then Mike Petriello has said that he heard as much on Ethier’s situation.

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Anyway, given that information, one has to surmise that the deal might look something like this:

Seattle Mariners Get: Andre Ethier/Chris Capuano/Cash
Los Angeles Dodgers Get: Brendan Ryan/Franklin Gutierrez/Prospects

From the Mariners perspective, they’re getting a solid ~2 WAR pitcher in Capuano with some upside and some risk for the price of $6 million with a 2014 mutual option ($1 million buyout). In this market, that’s a bargain and exactly what you want for a pitcher like Capuano, as he’d probably garner a three-year deal as a free agent. In Ethier, they’re getting a flawed but solidly above-average regular worth between 2.5-3.5 WAR, but he’s locked up through his decline years. He has little trade value with his current contract, but there’s still the cash aspect to examine.

The cash part of the deal is where it gets interesting, as the quality of prospects will likely depend on the amount of money taken on by the Dodgers. While I have heard people throw around names like James Paxton, Taijuan Walker, and Danny Hultzen, I doubt the Dodgers can coerce the Mariners into parting with any of that trio unless they eat almost all of Ethier’s contract. In a more realistic scenario, they would part with a couple solid prospects, and then what the Mariners would need is enough money to make Ethier an asset again, so perhaps something in the $20 million to $25 million range.

Other players the Mariners are parting with include Brendan Ryan and Franklin Gutierrez. Ryan is an underrated above-average regular, but he’s not the shortstop of the future for the team, as he hits free agency in 2014. Gutierrez has potential as a regular, but hasn’t been healthy in two years and also hits free agency in 2014.

All considered, if the Mariners can get a solid chunk of money in the deal and only have to surrender a couple B-/C+ prospects, the trade shouldn’t be a problem from their perspective.

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As for the Dodgers, this deal makes no sense for them on the surface. After all, Ethier (plus cash) is a productive player and Capuano is a solid starter. Additionally, the return of Ryan and Gutierrez seems light on present impact, which is what the Dodgers are looking to gain.

A closer examination, though, reveals how it could all make sense. For starters, Ethier has basically zero trade value because of his five-year/$85 million contract. Nick Swisher, a similar player that I compared Ethier with earlier, got a four-year/$56 million deal on the open market, so you can see the overpay there in clear and present terms. As such, the amount of cash will be what actually determines how much of an asset Ethier is to the Mariners. As far as Capuano goes, he has essentially no utility to the Dodgers in his current situation due to the sheer number of starters they have. Therefore, the return of decent but unspectacular players with expiring contracts, along with average prospects, actually makes sense.

Moreover, losing Ethier is part of the plan for the Dodgers, as we assume they would then go on to sign Michael Bourn. In an earlier comparison between him and Ethier, I found that he could be an immediate 1-2 win upgrade, so that would be a clear win for the team as it is.

Then there’s the other pieces to consider, who are actually worth more to the Dodgers than they seem. Ryan is a shortstop that can’t hit a lick, but is still a ~2.5 WAR player because of his consistently plus-plus defense across all defensive metrics and … well … if you watch the highlight reels like I do. His addition would hypothetically allow Hanley Ramirez to slide to third and Luis Cruz to become a super-sub type, which fixes a lot of the problems on the bench. Replacing Hanley with Ryan at short could be a ~30 run upgrade defensively in itself. Gutierrez also excels defensively, but has struggled to stay healthy. He can play a plus-plus center field and would be an outstanding fourth outfielder, as I think he could be a solid regular if he could ever stay healthy. As it stands though, he could end up being anywhere between a 0 to 3 WAR player. His acquisition would eliminate yet another need for the Dodgers bench and provide a solid contingency plan for every starter.

Now throw in a couple solid prospects as the cherry on top, and the Dodgers have just upgraded their starting lineup, resolved one of their starter dilemmas, filled two holes, extended their bench, and added to a sagging farm system.

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Granted, this is a lot of moving parts, but I struggle to see another way this works out between the two teams, if it ever does. I honestly like the trade for both sides in this proposed scenario, as I think both teams would get what they’ve been wanting.

Generally speaking, this is obviously an incredibly inefficient way to do business for the Dodgers, but if the money doesn’t matter, then these sets of moves would clearly improve the roster like they want. I do still have minor lingering concerns about where exactly the money ends, especially looking toward the future, but the details of the potential television contract have allayed my worries for at least a little while. Besides, flags fly forever and they’ve already crossed the point of no return, so why not go all out with the championship chasing while the opportunity exists?

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