Curtis Granderson Rumors

AL East Notes: Red Sox, Lester, Granderson, Feldman

The Red Sox recipe for a championship has been discussed extensively, ever since it became clear that the team was going to be a real contender. But how does it work as a model for other teams? The New York Post's Joel Sherman, for one, thinks it was a one-time stroke. (He compares the lasting power of GM Ben Cherington's mid-tier free agent binge unfavorably to that of the Macarena.) As Sherman well explains, the circumstances for Boston's worst-to-first turnaround are fairly unique, including the Sox' preexisting talent base and nigh-unbelievable success rate in its free agent signings. While teams are likely to have taken account of the lessons that Cherington taught in occupying the market's midsection, says Sherman, no single one can replicate it. And teams will find their dollars won't go quite as far as did Boston's last time around. More from the American League East:

  • Boston had an offer on the table from the Royals that would have sent Jon Lester to KC in exchange for Wil Myers, reports the Boston Herald's Scott Lauber. When the Sox asked for time to think, Kansas City instead used Myers to bring back James Shields from the Rays. Lauber says that the Red Sox are lucky not to have acted on that tempting trade offer, arguing that Lester has turned into an "undisputed ace." While there is no question that Lester played a critical role in the team's World Series run, that characterization might be subject to some debate — Lester was tied with Jhoulys Chacin for 16th in fWAR among qualified starters this year, but ranked 52nd in ERA and 41st in FIP. 
  • On the other hand, Lester is eighth among starters in cumulative fWAR since 2008, making clear that he has been both excellent and durable. Lauber goes on to weight a possible new contract for the sturdy lefty. He points to two possible comparables: the five-year, $85MM deal signed by Jered Weaver of the Angels, and the six-year, $144MM pact handed Cole Hamels. According to Lauber, the Sox should be interested in an extension — in spite of their prospect depth — if they can get Lester for something more like the lesser of those two deals.
  • The Yankees have yet to decide whether to issue outfielder Curtis Granderson a qualifying offer, reports Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News. Perhaps hoping to deter just that possibility, Granderson's agent Matt Brown said that "there's definitely a possibility" that his client would accept an offer. Of course, he also emphasized that Granderson remains "a pretty elite guy" who will be sought after on the free agent market. MLBTR's Steve Adams predicts that the market will value him in the three-year, $45MM range. A qualifying offer, and subsequent rejection of same, still seems the likeliest scenario.
  • Orioles GM Dan Duquette may have a lot of free agents clearing the books, but that doesn't mean he'll be rushing to act on most of them, says the Baltimore Sun's Dan Connolly. Mid-season starter acquisition Scott Feldman is the top target among them for a Baltimore club that does not figure to flash too much cash on the market, Connolly explains, but the O's aren't likely to go past two years for him. 

New York Notes: Yankees, Cano, Ellsbury

As always, New York will be an interesting market to watch this season, highlighted by the Yankees' attempts to re-sign Robinson Cano and the Mets' desire to aggressively participate in the free agent market. Here's the latest on both teams, courtesy of Jon Heyman of CBS Sports and Andy Martino of the New York Daily News

  • The Yankees have already been linked to big fish like Masahiro Tanaka, Brian McCann, Shin-Soo Choo and Carlos Beltran, but Heyman adds that they've also had internal discussions about Jacoby Ellsbury, Matt Garza and Stephen Drew. As Heyman points out, Drew would be a peculiar target given Derek Jeter's $9.5MM player option for 2014.
  • According to Heyman, the Yankees are still the favorites for Cano, but there's a sizable gap between his eye-popping $305-310MM asking price and the Yankees' current thinking. Heyman says the Yankees have only shown a willingness to go to $160MM or so to this point.
  • According to Martino, no one from either camp has denied the fact that Cano's camp began negotiations by asking for $300MM+.
  • Martino adds that the Mets aren't likely to pursue Ellsbury on the free agent market, as his sources have indicated that GM Sandy Alderson simply isn't comfortable with the type of contract that Ellsbury will ultimately end up signing. Instead, expect the Mets to pursue trades and free agent signings of corner outfielders, as they're very pleased with Juan Lagares' glove in center field. This marks the second instance in the past six weeks or so in which we've heard specifically that the Mets aren't a likely match for Ellsbury.
  • General manager Brian Cashman worries that Hiroki Kuroda will return to Japan, writes Andy McCullough of the Star Ledger. He adds that one baseball official to whom he spoke would "be blown away" if Curtis Granderson didn't receive a series of lucrative offers on the open market despite his lost season.

Cafardo On Price, BoSox, Granderson, Loney, Dodgers

While David Price has resigned himself to being traded, the Rays appear to be trying to figure out ways to make their ace the focal point of their pitching staff for many years to come, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. Cafardo notes, however, the Rays' front office realizes it could be a losing battle, so a trade is likely with nearly half of baseball rumored to be interested in the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner. "It's a big name, a big-time pitcher," one National League GM told Cafardo. "Even if you feel you don't need that level of pitcher, you look into it because he's so special and such a game changer. You do more than kick the tires. You try to make something happen, and I think you'll see teams that don't even need him step up." Here's more from Cafardo's column:

  • The Red Sox will likely trade one of their veteran starters to make room for their young arms. Cafardo suggests Jon Lester and Jake Peavy could be available while Ryan Dempster, John Lackey, and Felix Doubront are also vulnerable.
  • Jacoby Ellsbury is a perfect fit for the Mariners and Carlos Beltran likewise for the Orioles.
  • Curtis Granderson will likely receive a qualifying offer from the Yankees and there's a strong possibility he would take it because he could post his biggest numbers at Yankee Stadium.
  • The Dodgers will make Andre Ethier and/or Matt Kemp available this winter. Kemp will come with injury concerns, but that shouldn't prevent a team from taking a chance on his talent.
  • James Loney has rebuilt his value with a strong season in Tampa (.299/.348/.430 with a 2.1 oWAR in 158 games and 598 plate appearances). Loney could find a market with the Rangers, if the Rays don't re-sign the free agent first baseman.
  • Reds pitching coach Bryan Price appears to be the front-runner to replace Dusty Baker as manager in Cincinnati while Nationals bench coach Randy Knorr is in a strong position to take over from Davey Johnson, unless ownership wants a bigger name as its new manager.


White Sox Expected To Pursue Curtis Granderson

The White Sox will have a lot of holes to fill this offseason, and Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times reports that the they're expected to push hard for free agent outfielder Curtis Granderson. The connection makes sense not only based on team needs but because Granderson is an Illinois native who played college ball at the University of Illinois-Chicago. Granderson recently donated a new baseball facility to UIC, and that facility is roughly three miles from U.S. Cellular Field, writes Van Schouwen.

Granderson, who turns 33 next March, played in just 61 games this season due to a pair of fluke injuries. He suffered a fractured forearm when he was hit by a pitch in his first Spring Training plate appearance, and another HBP broke his pinkie finger in just his eighth game of the regular season. That fracture wound up requiring surgery that would sideline Granderson until Aug. 2.

When on the field, Granderson hit .229/.317/.407 — a noticeable decline the robust .247/.342/.522 he slashed from 2011-12. However, hand and forearm injuries have been known to diminish offensive output upon initial return, and it's not as if U.S. Cellular Field is a pitcher-friendly stadium that would cause Granderson's power to greatly decline. White Sox GM Rick Hahn would have good reason to believe that Granderson could return to form were he to sign with the South-Siders this winter.

A serious pursuit of Granderson would likely mean that the Sox view Alejandro De Aza as a fourth outfielder or as trade bait, notes Van Schouwen. I would imagine that coming off a .264/.323/.405 season with 17 homers and 20 steals, Hahn would be able to find some interest, even if advanced defensive metrics didn't care for De Aza's glove work.

Granderson will be one of the main beneficiaries of Hunter Pence's lofty five-year, $90MM extension this offseason. Not only did Pence's deal set a high precedent for corner outfielders, it also removed one of Granderson's main competitors from the free agent market before the season even ended. Granderson and agent Matt Brown will still have to contend with the likes of Shin-Soo Choo, Carlos Beltran and perhaps Nelson Cruz, who is expected to receive a qualifying offer from the Rangers. I profiled Granderson's free agent case last month and estimated that he could fetch three years and $45MM based on his track record, though that was before Pence's contract was signed. Granderson said recently that his preference is to stay with the Yankees, but it remains to be seen if they will make a serious push to retain him as they attempt to lower payroll.

Also within Van Schouwen's piece, he reminds us that the Sox are keeping tabs on Cuban slugger Jose Dariel Abreu. Former GM and current VP Kenny Williams was on-hand for the 26-year-old first baseman's two-day showcase in the Dominican Republic. Abreu would fit Hahn's desire for "long-term, sustainable success," but he's being pursued by numerous clubs and is expected to command a hefty price tag.

The price tag will be key in the pursuit of both free agents, as Van Schouwen's source admitted: "[Granderson's] a Chicago kid with a name on the back of the jersey to create a buzz. Are they going to come up with the cash? I don’t see that happening."

One thing the White Sox do have going in their favor is their protected pick in the 2014 draft. The Sox, who select third overall in 2014, would only have to forfeit their second-round selection to sign Granderson. That could make them more willing to spend than teams who would be forced to surrender their top pick.


Yankees Notes: Cano, Rangers, Granderson, Pineda

The Rangers contacted the Yankees earlier this season about the possibility of trading Robinson Cano, Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York reports.  Talks went nowhere as the Yankees simply said that Cano was unavailable.  The Rangers' interest, however, places them atop Marchand's list of the nine teams who could land Cano in free agency this winter.  Cano's presence would crowd a middle infield situation that already includes Jurickson Profar fighting for playing time with Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler, though one scout told Marchand that Texas could move Kinsler to first base.

Here are some more items from the Bronx…

  • The Dodgers, Phillies, Mariners, Cubs, Tigers, Nationals, Mets and the "mystery team" round out Marchand's list.  The Dodgers are reportedly not planning to bid on Cano this winter but one official tells Marchand "I'll believe it when I see it."  Another official noted that Phillies GM Ruben Amaro likes to be "creative," so he could try to sign Cano and move Chase Utley to third.
  • Curtis Granderson's agent, Matt Brown, tells Dan Martin of the New York Post that the Yankees are his client's "first choice" and that "he absolutely wants to stay" in New York.  Brown admitted that Granderson's injury-shortened 2013 season could impact his next contract "but I think people remember what he did the previous two years.”
  • Scouts tell Martin that Granderson isn't considered an injury risk going forward (his broken and forearm and fractured pinkie were both caused when he was hit by pitches) and there is speculation that the Rangers or Red Sox could be interested in Granderson's services.  One scout wonders how Granderson will fare away from hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium while other expected Granderson should find a big contract given the lack of power bats on the open market.
  • An AL scout who saw Michael Pineda pitch three times this year described the right-hander as a "back-end" starter, Andy McCullough of the Star-Ledger reports.  "He progressed and his arm strength improved, but he still had unreliable command and mechanics," the scout said.  Pineda averaged a 94.7 mph fastball with the Mariners in 2011 but the scout clocked him at between 91-93 mph in the minors.  Pineda has yet to throw a Major League pitch for the Yankees since he was acquired in January 2012.  He missed the entire 2012 season due to shoulder surgery and was limited to 10 minor league starts in 2013, though he posted a 3.32 ERA, 2.93 K/BB and 9.1 K/9 over those starts.
  • Earlier today, we collected the latest rumors about Joe Girardi's managerial future.

Yankees Notes: Rivera, Granderson, Cano, A-Rod

Mariano Rivera could receive one more retirement present in the form of a long-awaited appearance in center field.  Yankees manager Joe Girardi told reporters (including MLB.com's Bryan Hoch) that he could give the closer an inning of work in center during the season-ending series this weekend in Houston, which also mark the final three games of Rivera's legendary career.  Rivera has said he will take the defensive assignment only if he feels physically up to the task.  "If I cannot do it, I will not be making a fool of myself there," Rivera said. "I'm a professional. This is not a joke. This is serious, this is business."

Here are some more items out of the Bronx…

  • Curtis Granderson's preference would be to remain with the Yankees but he's looking forward to his first taste of free agency, the outfielder tells The Star-Ledger's Brendan Prunty.  MLBTR's Steve Adams recently profiled what Granderson could claim on the open market this winter.
  • Going into what could be his last home game in Yankee Stadium, Robinson Cano told reporters (including Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York) that he planned to take a long break after the season and then think about his future.  As Matthews notes, this likely means the Yankees won't be able to extend Cano during their exclusivity period following the World Series.  Cano also didn't say if he would require the Yankees to commit to making other free agent signings this winter before re-signing with them.
  • Earlier today, it was reported that Cano was seeking a ten-year contract worth at least $305MM.  He has already rejected two extension offers from the Yankees worth $138MM over eight years and between $161MM-$168MM over seven years.
  • Alex Rodriguez "absolutely" expects to finish his career as a Yankee in 2017 after playing out the rest of his contract, he told Newsday's Steven Marcus.  "I'm looking forward to that….I've shown myself that there's a lot left in the tank — and I have a lot to prove," Rodriguez said.
  • It might not be for 211 games, but Mike Axisa of the River Ave Blues blog figures Rodriguez will face some kind of PED suspension, and Axisa looks at how the Yankees would be affected if Rodriguez had to miss 50, 100 or 150+ games.

Free Agent Profile: Curtis Granderson

A pair of broken bones isn't something any impending free agent wants to endure in a contract year, but that's what Curtis Granderson is attempting to overcome. After a pair of 40-homer campaigns from 2011-12, Granderson was hit by a pitch in his first Spring Training plate appearance in 2013. X-rays would reveal a fractured forearm that wound up causing the Grandy Man to sit out the first six weeks of the year.

As if that wasn't enough poor luck for the former Tiger, he was struck in the left hand by a pitch from Rays reliever Cesar Ramos on May 24 in just his eighth game of the season. Granderson stayed in the game briefly, but that would be his last contest until Aug. 2, as he had suffered a broken metacarpal that required surgery. After missing about two-thirds of the season, Granderson will hit the open market as a free agent.

Strengths/Pros

The first thing that comes to mind with Granderson is power. After averaging 24 homers per season from 2006-10, Granderson exploded with a 41-homer campaign in his second season with the Yankees. Granderson He followed that up with 43 long balls in 2012. While many will point to Yankee Stadium as the reason for his surge in power, it wasn't all the ballpark. Granderson belted 47 homers at Yankee Stadium in 2011-12 but still went deep 37 times on the road. No one in baseball had more home runs from 2011-12 than Granderson, and his 30 homers against lefties in that span were also the most in baseball.

He's capable of playing all three outfield positions as a result of his good speed, though advanced defensive metrics soured on him in 2012. UZR and The Fielding Bible both like his glove-work in this season's limited sample size, however, and he grades out as a positive defender for his career per both metrics.

That speed also comes through on the basepaths. Granderson is still a threat for double-digit stolen bases. He's swiped seven bags in 55 games this season and is just stole 25 as recently as 2011. According to Fangraphs, he's never had a full season in which his baserunning has cost his team runs, and he's been worth 28 runs above average on the basepaths over the course of his career (he's at +1.3 this season).

Granderson is also patient; he's walked in 11 percent of his plate appearances dating back to the 2008 season. His blend of patience and power allows a manager to bat him anywhere in the lineup. While he's missed time with injury this season, both were freak accidents. From 2006-12, Granderson was a picture of durability, averaging 153 games per season.

Weaknesses/Cons

Granderson hit .302 in 2007 and backed it up with a .280 season, but don't confuse him for a player that's going to hit for a high average. From 2009-13, Granderson has batted .247 due to a strikeout rate that has continued to rise. At this point, it's fair to expect him to whiff in roughly a quarter of his trips to the plate.

His best year at the plate came in 2011, when Granderson was able to post an OPS north of .900 against both lefties and righties, but he's often struggled to hit for average and get on base against left-handed pitching. In 2012, Granderson hit just .218/.304/.458 against southpaws. He's been better in a small sample size this season, but he's never shown a prolonged ability to hit lefties over multiple seasons.

Granderson is also on the wrong side of his prime. He'll turn 33 next March, so any team that pays him on a multi-year deal could fall victim to the dreaded "pay for the prime, get the decline" scenario. His isolated power peaked at .290 in 2011, dropped to .260 last season and is currently at .188. That's still a strong number but could be a portent for a power outage in the near future.

Personal

Granderson has a big personality and is friendly toward fans, teammates and the media. His parents are both retired teachers, which is one of the reasons that he is so dedicated to education. Granderson finished the final two years of his degree from the University of Illinois-Chicago while playing in the Tigers organization. He also founded the Grand Kids Foundation in 2008 — a foundation aimed to increase educational and youth baseball opportunities for inner-city children. He's very active elsewhere within the community as well, having participated in programs such as Play Baseball Detroit and Tigers Dreams Come True. He is widely regarded as one of the most amiable players in the game.

Market

Granderson's track record is strong enough that he will likely receive a qualifying offer from the Yankees, and he has a case for a multiyear deal elsewhere even if he rejects that offer. His power and magnetic personality will appeal to all teams, and the latter will be particularly appealing to large market teams with aggressive media. Granderson is a native of the Chicago area and has enjoyed his time in New York, though he hasn't necessarily indicated a geographic preference.

Granderson will be competing with the likes of Shin-Soo Choo and Hunter Pence this offseason, each of whom is younger and coming off a career year in a full, healthy season.

Expected Contract

It's tough to pin down Granderson's free agent value. Had he enjoyed a healthy season similar to 2011-12, he'd be in line for at least a four-year deal. Agent Matt Brown of Pro Prospects Inc. can emphasize the point that his two injuries were freak accidents, but teams won't simply ignore the fact that Granderson will end up having played in roughly 60 games this season.

It only takes one team to push him to a four-year guarantee, so it's not out of the question. Any team that is willing to guarantee a fourth year and sign him for Nick Swisher money — four years and $56MM — would likely be able to land Granderson. However, I'm predicting that Granderson will sign a three-year, $45MM contract this offseason, perhaps with an option that could bring him to that fourth year.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Yankees Notes: Granderson, Hughes

Mariano Rivera took home MVP honors in last night's All-Star Game victory after tossing a perfect eighth inning. Manager Jim Leyland told reporters, including Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times, that he wanted to ensure Rivera got into the game. If the NL took the lead in the bottom of the eighth against a different pitcher, there might not have been a bottom of the ninth to pitch. Leyland also joked, "I wanted to make sure I got out of here alive." Rivera's moment was an instant classic; his teammates allowed him to take the field all alone to "Enter Sandman" as he received a standing ovation from the fans and both dugouts (video link courtesy of MLB.com). Here's more on the Yankees…

  • Joel Sherman of the New York Post spoke with a prominent agent and two front office executives that said Curtis Granderson's injuries make him more likely to remain with the Yankees beyond 2013. Each said Granderson wouldn't top his $15MM annual salary on the open market, and he could accept a one-year qualifying offer (roughly $13.8MM) to re-establish value. It could also give the Yanks a shot to sign him to a four-year deal similar to Nick Swisher deal with Cleveland this offseason.
  • The Yankees haven't been able to find an acceptable return in trade discussions for Phil Hughes, who will become a free agent after this season, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com writes. The Dodgers were a potential fit for Hughes, but they're no longer on the hunt for a mid-rotation starter after acquiring Ricky Nolasco. The Giants and Padres probably shouldn't be considered active buyers at this point because of recent poor play, Heyman says.
  • Heyman adds that the Angels have long been interested in Hughes, nearly drafting him in 2004 before owner Arte Moreno insisted the team select Jered Weaver. However, given the Halos' current record, they don't appear to be buyers.

Aaron Steen contributed to this post.


Rosenthal’s Latest: M’s, Yanks, Roenicke, Rays, Cubs

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports has a lengthy new article discussing All-Stars, some of the game's top young hitters and a plethora of hot stove info. Here are some highlights…

  • Rival executives around the league are critical of the Mariners for rushing their top prospects, but Rosenthal notes that Nick Franklin has been more than up to the challenge, and Brad Miller earned his promotion with his minor league performance. Regarding the struggling Mike Zunino, GM Jack Zduriencik told Rosenthal: "We planned all along to get Mike to Seattle at some point in July … He wasn't expected to be a big contributor offensively if it was now, July, September … but he has held his own, and what he is receiving now will set him up for 2014 and beyond."
  • Multiple scouts have questioned the work ethic of the Brewers' players, with one telling Rosenthal "there's a lot of quit on that team." Rosenthal writes that it isn't manager Ron Roenicke's fault that Ryan Braun, Corey Hart and Aramis Ramirez have been injured, but the negative reports could be an "ominous sign" for Roenicke. Rosenthal tweets a correction, noting that Roenicke is signed through 2014, not through 2013 as he initially reported.
  • The Yankees aren't planning a fire sale, but if they did, they'd have some of the most attractive trade chips in the game. The Yankees could part with Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes, however, and Rosenthal adds Curtis Granderson's name to the mix, assuming the injured outfielder gets healthy in time.
  • The Rays aren't looking to add a starting pitcher with both David Price and Alex Cobb likely to return in the near future. If the Rays make any moves at all, they'll be for impact players regardless of position.
  • The Cubs are "all but certain" to trade pending free agents Matt Garza, Kevin Gregg and Scott Feldman, but they're not in a rush to deal Nate Schierholtz and David DeJesus, both of whom are controlled beyond 2013. 

Quick Hits: Yankees, Dodgers

The Yankees and Dodgers have far and away the game's highest Opening Day payrolls, but have had polar opposite results thus far. While the Yanks were supposed to be the team that failed to deliver performance commensurate with its big spending, they sit atop the AL East with a robust 29-18 record. The Dodgers, meanwhile, are buried seven games back in the basement of the NL West, sporting a 19-27 mark after a listless showing against the Cardinals last night at Dodger Stadium. Let's take a look at the latest on these clubs:

  • It has been a comedy of injuries this year for the Yankees, with a steady flow of DL stints nevertheless failing to slow the team's winning ways. Last night brought more of the same, as two key players — outfielder Curtis Granderson and starter David Phelps — left the team's 9-4 drubbing of the Rays. MLB.com's Bryan Hoch had the story. Phelps, who was hit on the arm by a come-backer, appears to have escaped significant injury and is expected to make his next scheduled start. Granderson was not so lucky. After suffering a broken forearm on a hit-by-pitch during Spring Training, causing him to miss the first month and a half of the year, Granderson only logged 31 big league plate appearances before being struck by another inside pitch. This time, the ball broke a knuckle on his left hand. The preliminary word is that he will miss a minimum of four weeks. The path to a substantial free agent pay day is now murkier for the big left-handed bat, who is set to hit the market after the season. It seems unlikely, at this point, that Granderson will have more than half of a season of performance in his walk year. While he has been a consistent home run and stolen base threat for much of his career, teams will certainly watch closely to see whether his arm and hand injuries sap his power as he finishes off his age-32 season.
  • For the Yankees, the loss of Granderson appears unlikely to warrant an immediate look outside the organization. As Hoch tweeted yesterday evening, and confirmed today, the club will call up outfielder Brennan Boesch. The Yanks nabbed Boesch late in the spring due in part to the fact that he still had an option year. He saw 45 unremarkable plate appearances early in the season, slashing .209/.244/.419, but was optioned in mid-May and has struggled to a .179/.343/.214 slash in limited action at Triple-A.
  • A swirl of news around a manager is generally not a good thing, and that is certainly the case with the Dodgers' Don Mattingly. Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times explains that, with Mattingly taking on an increasingly combative persona, the skipper may be going down with a fight, but seems to be going down nonetheless. Team president Stan Kasten, along with GM Ned Colletti, expressed agreement with Mattingly's attempts to light a fire under the team. And Kasten did say that Mattingly's job was not at risk. But he also made clear that it would be if the team can't reverse its fortunes: "I do expect us to turn it around, and because of that, I expect Donnie to be here for a long time. There's another side of that, if things don't go well."
  • Meanwhile, internal discord seemingly failed to die down after Mattingly recently called out highly-paid outfielder Andre Ethier. While Ethier expressed surprise and hurt at the public questioning of his effort and toughness, and said he had not even discussed the issue with Mattingly, the manager continued to see things differently. "Guys who play the game right, they don't have any problem with anything I'm saying," said Mattingly. "So I can't even come close to backing off things I said the other day. I feel exactly that way." But was Ethier right that the manager had not even talked about his comments with the player? "I'm getting old and my memory is going, but we definitely talked." Needless to say, this public feud only further reduces L.A.'s leverage should it look to move Ethier's big contract and so-far sluggish bat.