Andre Ethier was once a pillar of the storied Los Angeles Dodgers organization, so stable a contributor that the previous ownership/front-office regime gave him a heavy eight-figure contract.

Now, two-and-a-half years later, Ethier has become shell of that productive player, and it is that very five-year, $85 million deal that makes him such a burden to his current team and any potential new one.

Bets on him to bounce back and again become the kind of player that finished sixth in the National League MVP voting in 2009 are low. The Dodgers are having trouble finding a taker in a trade, and that, coupled with his 2014 performance, could lead to Ethier becoming nothing more than a mediocre bench player for the duration of his career.

To make the situation stickier for the Dodgers, who still have too many outfielders for the available lineup spots, Ethier has basically made the play-me-or-trade-me call for the upcoming season.

“Whether to play here every day or play somewhere else,” Ethier told Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times. “It was fun trying to win the way we did last year, but it didn’t prove any more successful than me playing every day or not playing every day.

“I’d rather play every day and help this team win—or whatever team it is—to the best of my ability.”

It does not seem likely the Dodgers will have room for Ethier in their lineup. Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson and Carl Crawford are expected to get the huge bulk of the innings, with Scott Van Slyke and possibly Chris Heisey filling in off the bench. With Ethier coming off a season in which he posted a .249/.322/.370 line with four home runs and a 97 OPS-plus in 380 plate appearances, easily the worst season of his career, he is on the outside looking in. Beyond his poor offensive performance, Ethier was worth minus-7 Defensive Runs Saved last season, according to FanGraphs.

Trading him will not bring much in return, plus the Dodgers are going to have to eat a good portion of the guaranteed $56 million still left on his contract. What the Dodgers have to hope for now is for a team to become desperate as spring training nears.

The Baltimore Orioles could be such a team.

The Orioles have engaged the Dodgers in trade talks for Ethier,’s Roch Kubatko reported. However, because of the length of Ethier’s deal, his age—he will be 33 in April—and his cost, even with the Dodgers picking up some of it, Ethier is not likely to be bound for Baltimore. He appears to be the team’s third option for a left-handed hitting outfielder behind Colby Rasmus and Nori Aoki.

There is also the idea of Ethier heading north to San Francisco to play for the rival Giants, another team in need of outfield help. The Giants would likely need plenty of salary relief from the Dodgers to make that happen, and the Dodgers helping the Giants save money just doesn’t seem probable.

The other thing clubs are concerned about is why Ethier is available in the first place. For a six-year span, Ethier was one of the more productive outfielders in the National League. From 2008 through 2013, he hit .286/.363/.471 with an .834 OPS and 127 OPS-plus. He also averaged 20 home runs a season, made two All-Star teams and won a Silver Slugger and Gold Glove.

But as Puig, Crawford and the since-traded Matt Kemp emerged as the team’s best outfield options last year, Ethier was relegated to the bench and found only 93 plate appearances in the second half.

For 2015, ZiPS projects Ethier to hit .259/.335/.392 with a 1.1 WAR. Steamer projects Ethier to go .261/.336/.400 with a 0.3 WAR. Assuming Ethier’s playing time is as limited as it was in the second half of last season, those numbers seem plausible.

However, it was only a season before that Ethier was still productive, getting on base at a .360 clip with a 121 OPS-plus and 3.0 WAR, based on Baseball-Reference calculations. While those numbers are not worthy of the $18 million he will make next season, it should definitely be worth the homework and kicking of the tires for some team with a need. If Ethier can bounce back as a regular, and even split some time as a designated hitter in the American League, he has real value.

Ending up in a division like the AL East, with smaller ballparks and thinner starting rotations, he could be an under-the-radar steal. However, having Rasmus and Aoki still available for much cheaper and for fewer years is hurting Ethier’s market. The upside for both could be equal to Ethier’s, if not higher in Rasmus’ case.

Ethier will probably never hit 30 home runs again or even put up an OPS-plus of 130 or higher as he did from 2008-2010, but one ugly season is too small a sample to call him washed up. He was unhappy last season, dealt with the nagging injury here and there and never found a rhythm because of the Dodgers’ outfield shuffles.

If the Dodgers are willing to pick up a large enough piece of his salary, he could be a strong change-of-scenery candidate for 2015.

Anthony Witrado covers Major League Baseball for Bleacher Report. He spent the previous three seasons as the national baseball columnist at Sporting News and four years before that as the Brewers beat writer for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Follow Anthony on Twitter @awitrado and talk baseball here.

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