Thinking About Andre Ethier

Comparing Teixeira's Contract To Fielder's
What pitches do the Yankees starters throw?
(AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

A few weeks ago, Brian Cashman indicated that trading for a DH-type bat was preferable to signing a free agent, though there aren’t many of those guys out there to be had right now. We’ve talked about Jason Bay, Garrett Jones, Nolan Reimond, Lucas Duda, David Wright, Kyle Blanks, and Brandon Allen among others but one guy we haven’t discussed is Andre Ethier of the Dodgers. That’s mostly because the soon-to-be 30-year-old Dodgers star isn’t actually on the market, though that’s never stopped us before.

Jim Bowden kinda got the ball rolling with this ESPN piece (Insider req’d) earlier this week, suggesting the Yankees trade Dellin Betances and Austin Romine to Los Angeles for Ethier. I’ve been pretty hard on the Dodgers’ right fielder in our weekly chats over the last year or so, but mostly because he’s not much of an outfielder and not the upgrade over Nick Swisher the MSM would lead you to believe. As far as the DH spot goes though, he’s nearly a perfect fit.

The Yankees are looking for a left-handed bat to platoon with Andruw Jones, and the 30-year-old Ethier is very much qualified for the job. He’s hit .313/.398/.537 against pitchers of the opposite hand over the last three years, a 151 wRC+ that is the eighth best in baseball during that time. Ethier is miserable against lefties — .215/.279/.329 and a 65 wRC+ over the last three years, fourth worst in baseball — but the Yankees wouldn’t be asking him to stand in against southpaws. That will be up to Andruw on most days. Yankee Stadium will help him out a bit more than Dodger Stadium, though he would have to adjust to a new league and new pitchers.

Ethier doesn’t do anything other than hit righties, which is why he should be considered nothing more than a DH candidate. His defensive numbers — -24.6 UZR, -11 DRS, -21.8 TZ, and -9.3 FRAA — rate him as one of the five or so worst outfielders in the game over the last three seasons, grouping him in with Raul Ibanez, Delmon Young, and Ryan Braun. So yeah, it’s bad. Ethier also has knee problems, having surgery in September to remove loose bodies and repair cartilage in his right knee. Getting him out of the outfield should help with that, in theory. He doesn’t steal bases or take the extra base very often either. Ethier is what he is, and that’s a righty mashing DH-type. There’s nothing wrong with that at all, he’d fit right into this Yankees lineup.

The problem is that the cost to acquire him is probably very high right now. The season hasn’t started yet, and the Dodgers didn’t spend over $44M on free agents this winter to sell off their third best player before pitchers and catchers report. He’s also slated to make close to $11M in 2012, which is about six times what the Yankees have said they have to spend on a DH. I’m looking at Ethier more as a trade deadline target, once the Dodgers fall out of the race and the Yankees have had a chance to evaluate their in-house options. I don’t know what the cost would be, but I have to imagine there will be competition for his services (the Red Sox, Rangers, Braves, and Nationals could all use a corner outfielder). This doesn’t figure to be a salary dump situation.

Ethier isn’t the kind of guy you lock into a multi-year contract when he hits free agency after the season, but he’s a damn fine rental player. The Yankees have the prospects to get a deal done — Bowden’s suggested proposal isn’t insane, but the Yankees need the catching depth and I’d hold onto Romine — and figure to have the need come late-July, so there’s a natural fit here. They can get some extra input on his personality and makeup from former teammates Russell Martin and Hiroki Kuroda, and then make a decision based on their needs and the cost. A doubt a trade will happen anytime soon, but expect to see the Yankees connected to Ethier quite a bit this summer if they can’t solve their DH issue on the cheap.

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Comparing Teixeira's Contract To Fielder's
What pitches do the Yankees starters throw?
  • cranky

    Sure.
    Having a LH DH the quality of Ethier would be terrific for the Yanks.
    But that trade proposal is insane.
    Ethier is, clearly, a platoon player. He mashes righties, but is a poor defender and can’t hit lefties.
    How much is a guy like that worth? $5mil per season? Certainly not twice that. And his trade value?
    A future starting pitcher+a future starting catcher? Really?
    Because Ethier’s been playing in a big-time market, because he’s had a few great streaks, because he’s a good-looking, telegenic guy, he’s a star. But he isn’t a star because of what he does on the field day in, day out.
    Ethier would be worth a trade package of Romine+Adam Warren. Tops. More than that would be overpaying. But, because he’s a “star,” the Dodgers likely believe he’s worth much more than that. He isn’t.

    • CJ

      No hes not worth 5m. Eithier will get more than Kubel 2/15

    • TanyonS

      Well said, cranky. My thoughts exactly.

  • Kevin Ocala, Fl

    When I read Bowden’s proposal of Romine & Betances for Ethier. my first thought was, “yeah, that’s why you write for ESPN”. My second thought I won’t write here….

  • Kosmo

    1 year of Ethier isn´t worth 2 top prospects. Could he adjust to or would he even be willing to be a platoon DH and occasional OF ?

    • CJ

      Tend to agree that betances romine is too much for 1 year. But we have no clue what kind if bat Cash can get for Betances + Romine. I would trade them for the best bat I could find.

  • Mister Delaware

    He’s great at RBIing!

    • MannyGeee

      #underratedstat

      • MannyGeee

        and yes, sarcasm is heavily implied, statheads!!!

  • CJ

    I don’t understand how Eithier is considered so bad defensively and he won the Gold Glove. I know there have been some awful GG awards but they usually get it right. I don’t see Eithier play OF in NL on West Coast to have my own opinion.
    Also, you have implied by greatest worry that the Yanks will try roughing it and then have to trade for an Ethier or Quentin in July. I hate that strategy, the cost in July for 2 months will be the same as now because it’s a sellers market and teams are desperate to make the playoffs.

    • Mister Delaware

      They don’t usually get it right, they just usually get it less wrong than giving a terrible defender a gold glove. When its an OF, its usually because of assists without regard for how many bases were given up in between assists. Like the CB who has a lot of interceptions because he’s thrown at so often.

      • CJ

        No its more reputation, “seeing” the defense than statistical measures. Franklin Guitierrez and Gerard Parra won GG so they are not going “big name”

        • Mister Delaware

          Parra led the NL in OF assists.

          • CJ

            That’s not all Parra did to win GG ask Brett Gardner

            • Mister Delaware

              Its not all he contributed on defense. If he has 6 assists but the same great range numbers, does he still win the GG? Maybe, but I’m not confident.

              (Gordon won in LF in the AL. Gardner has the far superior range (and numbers), Gordon had the assists.)

              • RetroRob

                He also had the bat, and there is a strong relationship between hitting and the Gold Glove.

                • Mister Delaware

                  See: Ellsbury, Jacoby

                • CJ

                  See Parra, Gerard; Guitierrez, Franklin

                  • RetroRob

                    I hear both of you, but GG voters have voted by bat results, sadly. Doesn’t mean light-hitting players with great gloves don’t win, but the path to a Gold Glove is through the bat.

                  • Mister Delaware

                    So lets say you can win a gold glove by: Hitting well, performing well in a less than meaningful statistical category like assists or errors, having good defensive stats the year before … which means Gardner should see his reward for his 2011 numbers in the 2012 voting. And in 2012, some other non-elite hitting LF should surpass him statistically and win in 2013 … unless another guy racks up a ton of assists.

                    • RetroRob

                      Hmmm, my response didn’t make it here. I wonder if it got posted in another thread by accident? No matter. I’ll try again.

                      I hope they update the voting around Gold Gloves because it’s messy right now. There are better systems out there for determining who is the best fielder, yet the GG’s seem to always mix in clunkers. Yet the GG is still considered the gold standard (sorry) for fielding. We all use the term. So and so is a gold glove fielder, yet we’re not necessarily talking about who won a gold glove, but we’re using the term to describe a player we view as a great fielder, or the best fielder at a position.

                      Right now it’s a winner-take-all approach. One vote for each position. They should adopt a point system, asking each voter to select a first, second, third place finisher. That would eliminate some of the odd choices. Right now, it’s possible that the winner might only have received five or six first place votes, and then all the other votes (the overwhelming majority) is split among the other fielders.

                      Winning a past Gold Glove seems to be a license to win many more. Being a good hitter seems to help winning a Gold Glove. I think an overhaul of the voting system would eliminate some of these flaws, and I’m surprised Rawlings hasn’t worked with MLB to improve it.

  • Monterowasdinero

    I can’t see Ethier being much of a fall off defensively from Swisher. Is he slower, worse arm, worse jump on the ball? YS rf has got to be easier than Chavez Ravine.

    Not sure about how good Betances and Romine will be. I am much higher on Banuelos. Romine seems to be well thought of by the brass-I haven’t seen anything great at ST/trenton and the short cup of coffee last September.

    I think it’s a tough call.

    • CP

      Is he slower, worse arm, worse jump on the ball?

      Yes

      • Monterowasdinero

        Then he truly sucks and no way do we get him.

        • theyankeewarrior

          You must have skipped the part about him mashing the ball from the left side, and us not having a DH.

    • Mister Delaware

      There’s a major disconnect between how Swisher looks playing defense and how effective he is at playing defense.

      • Monterowasdinero

        There is no disconnect between Swish’s arm and his inability to throw runners out at 2b/3b and home plate.

        • RetroRob

          True, but that tells me you overly rate OFers by their arm. In that case, you would love Nick Markakis. His arm is much better than Swisher’s, yet Swisher is a better OFer than Markakis.

    • RetroRob

      Swisher has been a plus defender through most of his career. Never by judge by looks…unless it’s a girl.

    • G

      Statistically, Swisher is a good fielder.

      But then again he’s not Jesus Montero so in your mind he’s worthless.

  • Donny

    I agree with the others posting here; that price is way too high. I think this move is only temtping because the idea would be to have Ethier take over for Swisher in 2013. However, I feel like Ethier is one of those guys that has a reputation that proceeds him. For that reason, his contract may not fit into the Yankees austerity budgeting plans. If you look at what the comparable outfielders to Swisher got this year (Cuddyer – 3/31.5 mil., Kubel – 2/15 mil., Willingham – 3/21 mil.), Swisher should probably cost something along these lines. Otherwise, the idea of making a trade for an Eithier-type could and should be re-visited next year at this time. Personally, I would feel more confident if Betances or Banuelos are dealt for a more team-controlled player like Domonic Brown. Again, that’s just me.

  • CJ

    As for character Martin knows for sure but a think he’s a gym rat all-baseball type. I think he trains with Pedroia in the offseason.

  • CJ

    How about Blanks AND Duda? Or Duda and Mayberry (cheaper than Dom Brown) Add some mass!

    • MannyGeee

      if we’re concenred with mass exclusively, Ronnie Belliard is still availible for the Chavez roster spot.

  • AJavierkei Pavagawnett

    How much does Romine really figure in to the Yankees’ future plans? Yes he’s cheap, and yes he projects to be reasonable defensively. That said are the Yankees really going to go with a such a sub-par offensive player long term when there will be better offensive options coming onto the free agent market who are also adequate defensively? Does Romine really have a shot of being anything more on the Yankees than back-up catcher who plays good defense?

    • Monterowasdinero

      Romeeee might be a Joe G type of catcher. I’m not sure he is an elite defensive catcher.

      • MattG

        Oh, I am rather certain he is not. Once, in Trenton, I was in the first row when Romine came back for a foul pop. He settled in for the catch, about a foot away from me.

        The ball almost landed in fair territory.

        • Monterowasdinero

          Labels are hard to shake-good or bad.

          Montero can’t catch, Romine is a great defender etc etc.

          Seeing is believing.

  • MattG

    Word of caution: Ethier’s wOBA vs LHP has declined every year. It was .365 in 2006, and its fallen all the way to .249 in 2011.

    Why does this matter, you ask? Well, good hitters do not have large platoon splits–only role players do. While we’re looking at Ethier as a role player, role players do not enjoy long careers, and that’s six years of consistent, profound decline. To me, this means even his ability to hit RHP is suspect moving forward.

    His may only be 30, but his splits look more like a player well past his prime.

    • CJ

      Andre Ethier sounds a lot like Paul O’Neill. Same age, can’t hit lefties, similar tools, we know how that worked out. Just sayin.

      • MattG

        No, he started out as Paul O’Neill. O’Neill wasn’t a role player, just like Granderson wasn’t a role player. Anyone who felt that way would’ve predicted they would eventually hit lefties (as I did for Granderson two winters ago on this site). It’s a natural arc for good left-handed hitters, and a by-product of not seeing many lefties until they reach the pros.

        Ethier came in with success, but you do not turn around a six year trend of dramatic decline. I am very confident in predicting that he will never hit lefties at anything approaching a reasonable level again. What’s worse, this means to me you will have to soon see his skills erode against RHP too: ball players don’t stay the same, so if he isn’t going to get better, he’s going to get worse.

      • thenamestsam

        Despite my belief that trading anything of value for him would be foolish I do think there’s a chance he could still become a better player. Long had success with improving Granderson against lefties, and I do think Ethier’s swing would work well in Yankee Stadium. If he’s a guy they like I’d much rather the Yankees try to get him now so Long could work with him in Spring Training and see if they can patch him up vs. lefties, rather than look to acquire him at midseason. But he seems like a classic guy who is overvalued so I can’t see him being available at the right price ever.

      • theyankeewarrior

        No.

  • Rainbow Connection

    No. He looks too much like Ron Darling. Creeps me out. Ron had that face first. Give it back.

  • ryan

    That’s too much. With his salary being 11 mill no way it would take Betances and Romine. Would we get 2 of the top 10 prospects on another team’s farm for 1 year of swisher? Giving up Romine when he’s the only Quality Catching prospect above A ball is way too risky. What if martin gets hurt?

    • CJ

      Good point on salary. I think Ethier is a good player but you are taking on a lot in salary. For betances/romine LA should eat salary like Beltran deal.

  • nolan

    I think the best thing the yanks can do is to use Dickerson in a platoon until mid season. Waiting til mid season will allow the yanks to rebuild value for Hughes, Joba, AJ, Freddy and Betances. It will also let them see if any minor league outfielders improve enough to consider them a viable replacement for swisher. If no one from the farm system emerges the object should be to trade for a young, cost controlled outfielder to replace swish which will then allow the yanks to sign Hammels and keep the budget under 189 million for 2014.

    • nsalem

      true

    • CJ

      That doesn’t make any sense. That implies that dickerson/jones have struggled for 3-4 months. If Hughes and Betances have been sharp then you can’t trade them for less than a stud who I dont see becoming available in July. And a good player will cost as much if not more for 2 months as the entire season. July is a sellers market even role players can be costly with little return (Xavier Nady, Austin Romine, 2010 Lance Berkman)

  • Monterowasdinero

    Dammit, this would have been just fine with CC/Kuroda/Nova/Freddy/AJ(Hughes)
    and….

    Montero DHing the hell out of the ball.

  • thenamestsam

    There is no way in hell the Yankees should consider that price. Ethier at 12M has 0 value in my mind. If there is really 12M left in the budget you can get at least as big a bump in the win column by spending it on the free agent market and you get to hold on to Betances and Romine. There are just so many better ways to spend 12M. Sign Damon and spend the extra 8-10M on another reliever or two. Offer EJax a 1 year 12M deal to be the 5th starter. Throw the 12M in the Cespedes budget. None of those moves is ideal, and I wouldn’t advise any of them, but they all make more sense to me than trading anything of value for Etheir.

    Ethier as a lefty DH is a 2-2.5 WAR player being paid like exactly that. I’d take him as a straight salary dump (something like Warren for Ethier) but anything more than that is a misallocation of resources in my opinion.

    • viridiana

      “I’d take him as a straight salary dump (something like Warren for Ethier) but anything more than that is a misallocation of resources in my opinion

      My sentiments exactly.

  • CMP

    You’d have to be crazy to trade Romine and Betances for 1 year of a lefty platoon DH.

  • kevin

    It takes two to tango, Mike Ilitch is a sap and Boras plays him like a fiddle. Cashman doesn’t play along with his games, which makes me worry that Cano + Boras = adios Robbie

  • dgrfns

    Ethier is a better player than the article lets on. He has gotten pretty terrible against lefties but he does kill righties. In his breakout year in 2009 he hit .272 with 31 HR’s and 106 RBI’s. And thats in Dodger Stadium not a small AL park. In 2010 he broke his finger in May. At the time he was leading the NL in all 3 Triple Crown caregories. Since that time he has battled the finger and knee issues. Last year he hit in 30 straight games including 27 in April to tie the record. The guy can’t hit lefties and still hits around .300 every year. If healthy he could lead the Yanks in HR’s.