Late last year, Andre Ethier made it known that he wanted to start, be it for the Dodgers or another club. Months later, the veteran outfielder’s position hasn’t changed much and he says he expected to have been moved by now, as Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com writes.
“I want the opportunity to play every day. My mind hasn’t changed from when I told you guys that a couple months ago,” Ethier said. “I felt like when I get a chance to play every day, I put up the numbers they ask of me. For some strange reason, it just happened that coming off a good 2012 season, in 2013 they took games away. You start to wonder why that happened. I feel like if I get a good full year in and get the at-bats, it starts to add up. It’s tough when you get 300 at-bats and you’re expected to hit 15 or 20 home runs.”
Ethier’s playing time has decreased over the last couple of years, but his production has dipped as well. Ethier, 33 in April, earned two consecutive All-Star appearances in 2010 and 2011. In 2012, Ethier slashed .284/.351/.460 with 20 homers in 618 plate appearances and inked a lucrative extension over the summer. In the last two years, however, Ethier has hit a combined .262/.344/.401. Last season he saw a career-low 380 plate appearances thanks to the Dodgers’ outfield logjam.
Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said earlier this offseason that he wanted to break up that logjam by trading one or possibly two of the team’s notable outfielders. He crossed Matt Kemp’s name of the list in the deal with the Padres, but he was unable to find a quality deal for Ethier. The Kemp trade required the Dodgers to eat a good amount of money, but Ethier is obviously a tougher sell given his recent performance and his own onerous contract.
Ethier is owed $56MM in total over the next three years when factoring in his salary plus the $2.5MM buyout attached to his 2018 club option (valued at $17.5MM). Ethier, meanwhile, can lock in that 2018 salary with 550 plate appearances in 2017 or 1,100 PAs combined between 2017 and 18.
Ethier told reporters that he won’t do anything to “force” a trade, but he has made his dissatisfaction known and this isn’t the first instance of tension between him and the organization. Back in 2011, Ethier inferred to T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times that the Dodgers were pushing him to play through a painful right knee injury. As the outfielder’s production took a nosedive, then-GM Ned Colletti hinted that he was skeptical about whether Ethier’s injury was legitimate.
“What am I supposed to be concerned about?,” the GM said of Ethier, who later scaled back his comments after meeting with manager Don Mattingly and Colletti. “That he has those numbers [since the All-Star break], that he’s hurt or contends he’s hurt?”
The Dodgers talked a bit with the Orioles about Ethier earlier this winter and the Diamondbacks discussed a swap of Miguel Montero for the lefty-hitting outfielder before sending the catcher to the Cubs. The holdup in the talks with Arizona was reportedly over the amount of money that the Dodgers would have had to kick in.