FEB. 4: The Dodgers would like to move Ethier, and the Sox do indeed want an upgrade in the outfield, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today, but there’s no sign of a match between the two sides at this time, he hears.
FEB. 3: Chicago has a “strong preference” to add a lefty bat, Rogers tweets. That’s one issue that the team has with a possible signing of Fowler, he notes, since the switch-hitting veteran is better from the right side.
FEB. 2: The White Sox have explored the possibility of a trade for Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier, according to a pair of reports from MLB.com’s Phil Rogers (Twitter link) and Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago/670thescore.com.
The Sox are known to be open to outfield help, having been connected to each of Yoenis Cespedes, Dexter Fowler and Alex Gordon, to varying degrees, over the past five to six weeks. Chicago currently projects to have an outfield of Melky Cabrera, Adam Eaton and Avisail Garcia, but the latter of that trio has yet to produce much at the Major League level. Eaton, of course, is one of the team’s best players and coming off a strong overall season, and while Cabrera stumbled out of the blocks in the first season of a three-year, $42MM contract, he rebounded to bat .288/.330/.449 with 11 home runs in the season’s final four months (109 games, 468 plate appearances).
Ethier could serve as a platoon partner for the right-handed-hitting Garcia, who has a career .284/.341/.424 batting line against left-handed pitching. He could also, as Levine notes, share some time between right field and DH in the event that Garcia and/or LaRoche enjoy a better season with the bat in 2016 than the duo did in 2015. Notably, the White Sox lack a bat that could step in and take reasonably contribute at designated hitter in place of LaRoche, should his problems persist. Mike Olt has huge power but is a career .168 hitter with a 37 percent strikeout rate, and the right-handed hitting Jerry Sands would be in strict need of a platoon partner. (That could be LaRoche himself, although the veteran struggled quite a bit even against right-handed pitching last year.)
From the Dodgers’ perspective, they can not only afford to part with Ethier but would in many ways be thinning out a currently crowded outfield mix. Los Angeles has Joc Pederson, Yasiel Puig, Carl Crawford, Scott Van Slyke, Trayce Thompson and Enrique Hernandez all serving as outfield alternatives on the 40-man roster (though Hernandez, of course, is more of an infielder).
Ethier has long been viewed as an albatross contract, and while the remaining two years and $38MM on his deal are a roadblock in any potential trade talks, there’s no doubt that he did restore some of his value last year when he followed up a .253/.325/.385 performance vs. righties in 2014 with an outstanding .306/.383/.517 line in 2015. Ethier is still in clear need of a platoon partner wherever he goes — he’s received just 99 plate appearances versus lefties over the past two seasons combined — but that type of production is impressive, especially considering his pitcher-friendly home park.
The Dodgers could either offer to eat some of the remaining money on Ethier’s deal — Levine estimates that absorbing half of the sum would get the two teams on the same page — or take on a bad contract from the Sox in exchange. LaRoche, for instance, is owed $13MM this season, so his inclusion in a trade would effectively reduce the White Sox’ financial commitment to a more palatable $25MM over two seasons. Left-hander John Danks is owed $14.25MM and would make sense to some extent in this capacity, though his ability to eat innings as the Sox’ fifth starter carries some value, and the team lacks a clear alternative in the rotation, at least early in the year. Even setting the money aside for a moment, the Sox and Dodgers would also have to agree to additional compensation, as L.A. probably doesn’t view Ethier as a pure salary dump (especially not if they’re offering financial relief in some regard). While Ethier might not command one of the Sox’ top-tier prospects, some form of young talent would have to head back in the direction of the Dodgers for the two teams to line up on a trade.
There’s incentive for the two sides to get something done prior to the season, though, because as Levine notes, Ethier will gain 10-and-5 rights in mid-April, thus giving him the power to veto any potential trade that’s put on the table. The Sox, of course, still have alternative options in the form of other trade possibilities or free agents such as Fowler and Austin Jackson.