Tag: Andre Ethier

Andre Ethier Injury: Updates on Dodgers OF’s Leg and Recovery

Outfielder Andre Ethier hasn’t played a regular-season game in 2016, but the Los Angeles Dodgers are hoping he will be able to contribute before the year is over.

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Ethier Likely to Be Activated in September

Tuesday, Aug. 23

Although the exact plan hasn’t been announced, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts explained the idea to have Ethier rehab and then return to the team at some point in September, according to Eric Stephen of True Blue LA.

The 34-year-old outfielder broke a bone in his right leg during a spring training game and was placed on the disabled list before the start of the season. The injury apparently took longer to heal than anticipated, and Ethier remained inactive through August.

According to Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times, the veteran finally started to face live pitching. But the manager “estimated he is running at 75 percent.”

“He’s getting closer,” Roberts said Sunday, per McCullough. “But to say when he’s going to go out on a rehab [assignment], I’m not sure.”

The Dodgers hope Ethier will be able to return to action as soon as possible. They are locked in a tight battle with the San Francisco Giants for first place in the National League West and can use any help they can find. They can especially use help in the outfield after Yasiel Puig’s regression this season.

Ethier is coming off a solid 2015 season in which he hit .294 with a .366 on-base percentage to go with 14 home runs in 142 games. He is a consistent hitter in the lineup and has the versatility to play all three outfield positions if needed.

Even if he comes back at less than 100 percent, any contribution would be helpful for the remainder of the regular season and possibly the postseason.


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Andre Ethier Trade Rumors: Latest News, Speculation on Dodgers OF’s Future

Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier has been linked to trade rumors that could potentially send him to the American League.

Continue for updates.

White Sox Looking to Deal for Ethier

Thursday, Feb. 4

Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported the White Sox “still would like” an offensive upgrade and added the Dodgers would “love to move [Ethier],” but he also added there are “no signs of potential match.”

On Feb. 1, Phil Rogers of MLB.com reported the White Sox were exploring the possibility of acquiring the two-time All-Star from Los Angeles.

The White Sox have been the most active team this winter in terms of making trades, acquiring third baseman Todd Frazier from the Cincinnati Reds as well as third baseman Brett Lawrie from the Oakland Athletics in December.

If the Dodgers trade Ethier, who hit .294 last year, it’ll be because of the depth they have in the outfield with Yasiel Puig and Joc Pederson. The White Sox could use another solid bat, especially in the outfield, as the team’s oldest outfielder, Melky Cabrera (31), batted .273 in 2015.

The 33-year-old Ethier won’t be a free agent until 2019, so any team looking to trade for him would be taking on a hefty price tag, though the veteran outfielder could help solidify its lineup.

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Biggest Issues the Dodgers Must Address at the Trade Deadline

When examining the Los Angeles Dodgers on the surface, it’s difficult to find anything significantly wrong with the team.

Not only do they rank among the top of the league in runs scored and ERA while having committed the sixth-fewest errors, the Dodgers have also maintained control of the National League West for most of the season.

But no team is perfect and with the trade deadline now just a month and a half away, the Dodgers may want to consider two minor issues.


Crowded Outfield

Heading into the season, the Dodgers’ starting outfield consisted of Yasiel Puig in right field, rookie Joc Pederson in center field and veteran Carl Crawford in left field.

The alignment quickly got shuffled when Puig went down with a hamstring injury in mid-April, and Crawford joined him on the shelf shortly thereafter with an oblique tear.

Veteran Andre Ethier, who had been essentially relegated to bench duties ever since Puig arrived in 2013, stepped in and has put together a nice bounce-back season so far. He is slashing .287/.366/.491, and his eight home runs have already doubled his 2014 total.

Manager Don Mattingly has also been trying to mix in the capable bats of outfielders Scott Van Slyke (currently rehabbing a back injury) and Alex Guerrero. With Puig and Crawford missing most of the first two months, the issue basically resolved itself. 

But Puig recently returned to the lineup, solidifying two of the three outfield spots alongside Pederson, an early front-runner for NL Rookie of the Year. The only position left up for grabs is left field, and there will be an obvious dilemma when Crawford and Van Slyke climb back into the fold to compete for playing time with Ethier and Guerrero.

The dilemma will be four outfielders for one spot. Even in a platoon strategy, that’s still two right-handed hitters (Guerrero/Van Slyke) and two lefties (Crawford/Ethier) competing against each other.

While the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman values depth, even he might realize the impending outfield surplus is probably untenable. 

So the questions then become who to trade and for what.


Starting Rotation Depth

If there’s one area in which Los Angeles could use some future help, it’s the back end of the starting rotation.

The Dodgers lost Hyun-jin Ryu and free-agent addition Brandon McCarthy to season-ending injuries, forcing fellow newcomer Brett Anderson to slide from the No. 5 spot in the rotation to No. 3 behind Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke.

Anderson has been satisfactory, posting a 3.57 ERA in 12 starts. But the southpaw’s lengthy injury history is a constant cause for concern. As Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times points out, Anderson’s 12 June innings are more than all of his June innings combined during the past five years.

The stopgap solutions that Mattingly has thrown into the fire—right-handers Mike Bolsinger and Carlos Frias—have performed admirably considering their lack of experience.

Bolsinger, acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks in the offseason, had thrown just 52 MLB innings prior to 2015. He began the season in Triple-A but has turned in a 4-1 record with a 2.25 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in 12 starts for the Dodgers since his promotion.

Frias entered this season even greener, with only 32 innings of prior MLB experience. But he, too, has held his own, compiling a 4-3 record and 3.86 ERA in eight starts.

Friedman and general manager Farhan Zaidi understand that Anderson’s next injury could be just around the corner. They also know full well that the surprising Bolsinger/Frias tandem might falter as the workload increases.

It’s why the Dodgers should consider adding a more proven arm to stabilize the back end of the rotation in case the aforementioned scenarios manifest themselves.


Trade Logistics

Los Angeles would probably like to trade away an outfielder in order to clear what will soon become a logjam. That’s easier said than done, however.

Although Ethier has re-established his trade value after two seasons with declining playing time and production, he is still owed $35.5 million through 2017—including a $17.5 million club option in 2018. Crawford and the $41.75 million he is due over the next two seasons will be nearly impossible to move, leaving Van Slyke and Guerrero as the two likeliest players to be flipped for some starting pitching.

Guerrero has become somewhat of a secret weapon for the Dodgers, slashing .282/.312/.615 with 10 home runs in limited action. While his statistics are surely attractive to other teams, the clause in his contract stipulating that he may become a free agent at the end of any season in which he is traded may hold up a potential deal.

Van Slyke possesses the cheapest contract of the bunch and is accustomed to coming off the bench. His career OPS of .805 indicates what kind of hitter the 28-year-old can be with regular playing time. Last year, he led Los Angeles in slugging percentage and OPS.

While pitchers on struggling teams like Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija will likely see their names cast into trade winds because of their contracts, the Dodgers might be interested in less-heralded hurlers come next month.

One realistic target could be Scott Kazmir of the Oakland Athletics, someone with whom the Los Angeles front office is quite familiar. Friedman worked with him in Tampa Bay, and Zaidi—formerly part of Billy Beane’s brain trust in Oakland—was instrumental in bringing him to the Bay Area.

The veteran left-hander has pitched well for the cellar-dwelling A’s, posting a 2.79 ERA in 12 starts. On the flip side, Oakland could use a player like Van Slyke to help bolster a regressing offense that currently ranks 17th in OPS. With the ability to play all three outfield positions, Van Slyke would also become an immediate offensive upgrade over current left fielder Sam Fuld.

Los Angeles will almost certainly need to include a collection of additional pitching prospects like Zach Lee, Ross Stripling or Zach Bird to facilitate this deal.

If Oakland wants Ethier—a player the A’s originally drafted—the Dodgers would need to eat a significant portion of his bloated contract, similar to the $32 million chunk they bit off this past offseason in the Matt Kemp trade.


All stats courtesy of ESPN.com unless otherwise linked/noted.

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Dodgers’ Joc Pederson Separating Himself in Battle for Center Field

When the Los Angeles Dodgers began spring training two weeks ago, most positions featured clear-cut starters who would not be facing much job competition leading up to Opening Day.

The exception—and biggest question mark facing the organization as it prepared to defend its National League West division crown—focused on the opening in center field.

For most of last season, Yasiel Puig manned the position. That was because Los Angeles had Matt Kemp in right field and Carl Crawford in left field. Andre Ethier was relegated to the bench and top outfield prospect Joc Pederson was tearing up Triple-A.

But now, Kemp is gone and Pederson is ready for his shot. Crawford is on track to begin the season in left field and the Dodgers would prefer Puig in right field in order to best utilize his excellent throwing arm.

The net result? A position battle between Pederson and Ethier, and so far, the highly touted prospect is leading the seasoned veteran by a wide margin in the race to become the Dodgers’ center fielder.


The Performance

Pederson has quite simply been the Dodgers’ best hitter in spring training.

Entering the weekend, he is batting .433 with a team-high 13 hits—including two home runs, four doubles and six RBI. Pederson yanked one of his home runs deep to right and lofted the other one over the fence in left-center, demonstrating impressive power to all fields. His seven runs scored rank second on the club, and he has also stolen a base.

“I just show up every day, go about the process that was set by the coaching staff,” said Pederson, per Kevin Baxter of the Los Angeles Times. “[I] work hard and try to do everything I can on the field to help the team win.”

The Dodgers selected Pederson in the 11th round of the 2010 draft. His progression through the minor league ranks was smooth and natural, culminating in his breakout campaign last season at Triple-A.

Pederson slashed .303/.435/.582 with 135 hits and 78 RBI in 121 games prior to his September call-up last year, becoming the Pacific Coast League’s first player since 1934 to hit at least 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in the same season, according to Mike Axisa of CBSSports.com.

He has started more games in center field than any other outfielder on the Dodgers this spring, and has looked comfortable at the position defensively.

“Once you’re up there, you never want to leave,” Pederson said, per Baxter. “You’ll do anything you can to stay up there.”


The Competition

Ethier, on the other hand, is hardly putting up a fight when it comes to this in-house battle.

The eight-year veteran owns a mediocre .250/.300/.321 slash in 28 at-bats this spring through Thursday. His first extra-base hit did not come until this week, and he leads all Los Angeles batters with eight strikeouts.

Ethier has played 142 games in center field during the past two seasons, more than any other Dodger during that span, according to Baxter. But after reluctantly coming off the bench last season, Ethier made it known back in December that he would rather be traded than repeat the situation he endured a year ago, per the Los Angeles Times‘ Steve Dilbeck.

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. I feel I can, if given a role. As I stand here today, I’m preparing every day to be a starting outfielder for the Dodgers, until I’m told otherwise. I’m not changing my mind about that. It’s probably going to be a little less wanting to take the same role as I did last year.

The Dodgers tried to acquiesce around the time Ethier made that statement, but were unsuccessful as a potential trade that would have sent him to the Arizona Diamondbacks fell through, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports

Ethier is coming off the worst season of his career, one in which he batted .249 with just four home runs and 42 RBI in 341 at-bats. Part of the difficulty in trading Ethier is the $56 million he is owed over the next three seasons.

However, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported that the Dodgers would be willing to eat half of that in order to unload Ethier, who will turn 33 in April. 


The Decision-Makers

Although the numbers speak for themselves this spring, Dodgers’ manager Don Mattingly has refused to announce what figures to be an inevitable decision favoring the team’s top outfield prospect.

“We’re still in camp and we’re still competing,” said Mattingly, per Baxter. “But obviously we like what we’ve seen from Joc. We’re looking at Joc’s processes as much as we are just the results. How’s his work? Has he got good routines? How’s he kind of dealing with it all?”

Mattingly considers Pederson the “best defensive center fielder” on the Dodgers, per Dilbeck, and the rookie has done nothing to dispel that notion so far at Camelback Ranch.

The Los Angeles skipper remained diplomatic when asked about Ethier’s body of work during spring training.

“Andre’s at-bats have been pretty good,” said Mattingly, per Baxter.

This noncommittal stance from Mattingly has not wavered from the official party line that team president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman established several months ago while discussing the 2015 center-field outlook.

“I think we’ll take some time in spring training and assess that, get a feel for [Pederson] in camp and how he’s handling things,” Friedman told Dilbeck. “It’ll be a discussion we’ll have with the staff and I’m sure it will be an ongoing discussion between now through the last game in March.”

With just one week left in March, the question has reached a crescendo but the answer is a simple one: Pederson should be the Opening Day center fielder for the 2015 Dodgers.


All statistics are courtesy of MLB.com unless otherwise stated.

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Dodgers’ Position-by-Position Breakdown at 2015 Spring Training

The Los Angeles Dodgers underwent their first full workout of spring training this week, officially turning the page on a busy offseason and opening the 2015 chapter with high hopes.

Succumbing to the St. Louis Cardinals in the playoffs for a second straight year prompted the franchise to rethink its overall philosophy last October. Ownership opted to hire an entirely new front office, headed by president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and general manager Farhan Zaidi, shortly after the postseason defeat.

This analytic-minded duo wasted little time revamping the roster, trading away fan favorites Matt Kemp and Dee Gordon while allowing Hanley Ramirez to walk via free agency in an effort to improve defense, chemistry and financial flexibility.

Spring training games against other MLB opponents at Camelback Ranch don’t begin until March 4, but the Boys in Blue are eager to see what their new—and hopefully improved—roster can do on the field.


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Will Dodgers Be Patient with Joc Pederson in World Series or Bust Pressure?

Change was the theme of the offseason for the Los Angeles Dodgers, both on and off the field.

It began with an overhaul of the team’s front office, as ownership hired Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi to serve as president of baseball operations and general manager, respectively, and with those two analytic rock stars came a new approach to constructing a winning and cost-effective roster.

That led to some tough goodbyes to fan-favorite players, as Friedman and Zaidi allowed Hanley Ramirez to leave as a free agent and then traded Dee Gordon and Matt Kemp in December during the annual winter meetings.

While the Dodgers subsequently restructured their middle infield through trades for veterans Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick, the team’s decision not to replace Kemp in center field was a direct vote of confidence in prospect Joc Pederson.

Pederson enjoyed one of the better seasons in minor league history in 2014, as the 22-year-old was named MVP of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League after leading the league in home runs (33), OPS (1.017), on-base percentage (.435), runs scored (106), walks (100) and total bases (259). He also became the first Pacific Coast League player to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in a season since 1934. 

Unfortunately, Pederson didn’t fare as well in his first taste of the major leagues, as the September call-up was just 4-for-28 (.143) with 11 strikeouts and nine walks in 38 plate appearances with the Dodgers.

At 6’1″, 185 pounds, Pederson is an impressive athlete with quiet strength, showcasing five average-or-better tools and good secondary skills. He projects to be a slightly above-average hitter at the highest level, with a mature approach and line-drive-oriented swing, and he already demonstrates a feel for working counts and getting on base.

The left-handed hitter has shown at least above-average power at every minor league stop, including a career-high 33 bombs in 2014. His power will play even if the average doesn’t translate, as Pederson is patient enough to wait out specific pitches each trip to the plate.

Pederson’s consistency on the basepaths rivals his power frequency, as he’s now swiped at least 26 bases in each of the last four seasons. Beyond that, his knack for getting on base and using his speed to put pressure on opposing defenses should always make him a consistent source of runs.

Pederson is a natural in the outfield, with plus range, excellent instincts and above-average arm strength, and manager Don Mattingly has previously stated he believes the 22-year-old is the “best defensive center fielder” in the organization, per Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times.

Following the season, the 22-year-old traveled to the Dominican Republic to play winter ball for the Leones del Escogido. He batted .265/.351/.361 with five extra-base hits (one home run), 13 runs scored, 10 walks and 33 strikeouts in 22 games with Escogido.

As expected, the Dodgers coaching staff and front office have been noncommittal about the possibility of Pederson, who has nothing left to prove in the minor leagues, opening the 2015 season in center field. The youngster will “have the opportunity to compete for the position” during spring training, according to Mattingly, while Zaidi has acknowledged that it’s between Pederson and Andre Ethier heading into camp. However, I’m not convinced it will be the battle they’re making it out to be.

Pederson’s potential to contribute in 2015 obviously played a major part in the Dodgers’ decision to deal Kemp, so one would think he’d have to fail pretty miserably in spring training for Ethier to win the Opening Day gig.

On top of that, the center field situation will determine the club’s outfield configuration next season, which makes it hard to believe the Dodgers would enter spring training with that much uncertainty at the position.

The Dodgers front office “would not have shipped Matt Kemp to the division-rival Padres if they didn’t believe Pederson is for real,” writes Lyle Spencer of MLB.com

Whether Pederson makes an impact and lives up to expectations will depend on his ability to make adjustments and overcome the inevitable growing pains that come along with being a rookie in the major leagues. For him, specifically, that will mean keeping his strikeout rate, which reached 27 percent last season between Triple-A and the major leagues, under control.

The Steamer and ZIPS projection models for 2015 call for Pederson to strike out somewhere in the 25 to 30 percent range, but they also like his chances of going 20-20 with a 10-plus percent walk rate in his age-23 campaign.

With Carl Crawford slated for left field and Yasiel Puig opposite him in right, Ethier would likely be the odd man out if Pederson claims center field. Suffice it to say the 32-year-old Ethier, who’s coming off a career-worst season (.249 average, four home runs in 380 plate appearances) and is still owed $56 million, would not be on board with such a role.

However, it still makes sense for the Dodgers to hang onto Ethier in 2015, argues Dilbeck, as the Kemp trade made him even more valuable to the team:

The problem is, should they trade Ethier and Pederson struggles, they could be in trouble. You almost would have to keep Ethier. He absolutely will not like it and be far from happy and cause Manager Don Mattingly a few maddening moments, but Ethier wouldn’t sour the clubhouse. He’s too much a loner. And though he was mostly great about his situation as the odd outfielder out last season, it’s not like he’s never been in a snit before.

The Dodgers potentially have something special in Joc Pederson, but they also have enough outfield depth so that he won’t be forced into an Opening Day role if he’s not ready.

Like any young power hitter, Pederson, who turns 23 in April, can be streaky at the plate, so he’s likely to experience plenty of ups and downs over a full season in the major leagues. At the same time, Pederson’s steady improvement from year to year in the minor leagues speaks to his capacity to make adjustments against advanced competition, and it should give the Dodgers enough confidence to stick with the promising center fielder through it all in 2015.

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Why an Andre Ethier-for-Ubaldo Jimenez Swap Makes Sense for Everyone Involved

There’s a deal to be made between the Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Dodgers that sends Andre Ethier to the reigning champs in the AL East, but, as Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe points out, the more than $50 million that remains on the outfielder’s contract complicates things.

Ethier plans on being a starter in 2015—whether it be for the Dodgers or another team—as he told the Los Angeles Times‘ Steve Dilbeck this past December. Even after trading Matt Kemp to San Diego, Ethier sits behind Carl Crawford, Yasiel Puig and Joc Pederson on Los Angeles’ depth chart.

He could start in Baltimore, where he’d be an immediate upgrade over Travis Snider, currently penciled in as the starter in right field. While his numbers last year were mediocre (.249 BA, .691 OPS), one of his former coaches tells Cafardo that’s due to a lack of playing time:

He’s a guy who has to play a lot to get into a rhythm. If he doesn’t, like last season, he’s not going to produce. The more he hits against lefties, the more comfortable he gets against them. He needs to be an everyday player.

There’s more than a little truth to that. Take a look at Ethier‘s numbers when he was a fixture in the starting lineup, logging more than 500 at-bats a season.

To be sure, that was a younger, faster, stronger version of Ethier than the player he is today—but entering his age-33 season and with no major injuries on his resume, there’s no reason to believe that he couldn’t still be productive with regular playing time.

As for Ubaldo Jimenez, who sits on the outside of Baltimore’s rotation looking in at the moment, he’d provide insurance for the Dodgers at the back end of the rotation—neither Brett Anderson nor Brandon McCarthy are what you’d call durable.

But adding Jimenez would accomplish more than that.

Currently, the Dodgers have Juan Nicasio in line to be the team’s long reliever/sixth starter, and they could keep him there, opting instead to add one of the free-agent relievers still sitting on the open market—a list that includes Joba Chamberlain, Francisco Rodriguez and Rafael Soriano.

But by slotting Jimenez in that role instead, it would free up Nicasio to serve in middle relief, where he’s proven to be more effective, albeit over a small sample size:

That jump in performance wasn’t lost on ESPN Los Angeles’ Mark Saxon or Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi:

After the All-Star break last year, he pitched exclusively in relief and had a 3.48 ERA in 19 games. According to Fangraphs, Nicasio‘s average fastball was 92.7 mph last season, but it ticked up to 95 mph when he pitched in relief.

“His stuff and performance played up in that role,” Zaidi said.

Financially, both players are due significant money through 2017—$38.75 million for Jimenez, $56 million for Ethier (including a $2.5 million buyout of his $17.5 million team option for 2018).

Baltimore isn’t going to take on an additional $17.25 million in current and future payroll, even if it would help the club defend its division crown. But if the Dodgers were to include, say, $10 million in the deal, it would help to offset that additional cost. 

In that scenario, the Orioles would only be adding an additional $7.25 million—spread across three years—to their current payroll. That’s far more doable, even as the team awaits a resolution to its television rights dispute with MLB and the Washington Nationals.

Of course, the Dodgers aren’t in the habit of just handing out wads of cash, and they’re going to want something of value for including that money in a deal. Enter the always-popular player-to-be-named-later, to be chosen from an agreed-upon list of five mid-level prospects at a later date.

So the final deal would look something like this:

Dodgers Get: RHP Ubaldo Jimenez and a PTBNL

Orioles Get: OF Andre Ethier and $10 million

Los Angeles strengthens its pitching staff, removes a potential malcontent from the clubhouse and saves a few million dollars in the long run, while Baltimore adds a veteran outfielder capable of helping to replace the production lost when Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz departed as free agents at a minimal cost.

Would it be a gamble on the part of both teams? Absolutely—Ethier and Jimenez could continue to struggle. But they could also be rejuvenated by a change in scenery, which would find both teams walking away from this deal feeling good about their return.

It’s what makes this a gamble worth taking.


Unless otherwise linked/noted, all statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs. All contract information courtesy of Cot’s Contracts.

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Handicapping the Dodgers’ Hotly Contested Spring Training Position Battles

February is here, which means spring training is just around the corner for the Los Angeles Dodgers and the rest of Major League Baseball.

The Boys in Blue made waves this offseason with their flurry of moves at the winter meetings, trading away key players from last season’s team that took home the National League West division title.

It remains to be seen whether this year’s roster incarnation is superior, but most of the players on the 2015 Dodgers know their role heading into the new season. The starting rotation is set, along with the closer and infield.

Two positions that are still up for grabs, however, are catcher and center field.



There were definite concerns within the organization following the struggles of A.J. Ellis last season. The Dodgers’ incumbent backstop batted just .191 in 93 games as he battled through knee and ankle injuries.

But although his performance at the plate suffered, the new front office led by President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman and general manager Farhan Zaidi realized his value in other areas of the game—namely his relationship with the pitching staff.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do if he’s not back,” Clayton Kershaw told reporters following the Dodgers’ season-ending loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Division Series last October, per Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times. “I think we’d be losing a lot if we let him go.”

It’s why the Dodgers ultimately decided to avoid arbitration with Ellis and brought him back on a one-year, $4.25 million deal, per Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.

“That’s been a part of our process, understanding the dynamics and the relationships and it’s clear he’s a big part of this team and a big part of the preparation and comfort level for the pitchers,” Zaidi told Hernandez.

The Dodgers still made sure to proceed with a Plan B just in case Ellis falters for a second straight year. Los Angeles acquired switch-hitting catcher Yasmani Grandal from the San Diego Padres in the blockbuster deal that sent fan favorite and franchise cornerstone Matt Kemp out of town.

The former 12th overall pick in the 2010 draft will be tasked with living up to some lofty expectations in the eyes of most Dodgers fans simply because of who the team traded away in order to get him.

Grandal has batted just .224 since testing positive for testosterone in November 2012. His return to the field in 2013 was cut short by a season-ending knee injury, but he did hit 15 home runs while playing half of his games in spacious Petco Park last year.

What’s more, Grandal batted .328 in 19 games in the Dominican Winter League this offseason, according to J.P. Hoornstra of InsideSocal.com.

Grandal recently described his knee as being “110 percent” improved compared to a year ago, per Hoornstra.

“It’s the reason I went to the Dominican Republic to make sure I was right,” said Grandal. “I think I showed I was right and that’s why so many teams started calling in afterwards.”

Ellis will likely be Kerhaw’s personal catcher because of their close relationship on and off the field, while Grandal undoubtedly offers more pop in the lineup along with a fine .350 career on-base percentage and elite pitch-framing ability.

According to Hoornstra, manager Don Mattingly held a meeting with both of his catchers but has yet to determine an arrangement for their playing time in 2015.

“A.J. couldn’t put it any better: Whatever it takes to win,” said Grandal, per Hoornstra. “If that day A.J. is the man for the job behind the plate and we are going to get a win with A.J. behind the plate, that’s going to be him. At the end of the day, if we get a win, that’s a team win and we all get a ring.”

Look for Mattingly to form a platoon based on matchups when it comes to his catcher on any given night.


Center Field

The battle to become the starting center fielder for the Dodgers this season will come down to a seasoned veteran and a highly touted prospect.

It’s going to be to Andre Ethier vs. Joc Pederson.

Ethier was the odd man out last season, an unlucky victim of the team’s outfield logjam. The eight-year veteran was banished to the bench in favor of Carl Crawford, who solidified himself as the everyday left fielder. Yasiel Puig patrolled center and Kemp played right.

With Kemp now out of the picture, the Dodgers plan to move Puig back to his natural position in right field, where the team can utilize his strong throwing arm to its maximum potential. Crawford will be back in left field, which means center field is wide open, and Ethier expects to reclaim a starting role, per 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. I feel I can, if given a role. As I stand here today, I’m preparing every day to be a starting outfielder for the Dodgers, until I’m told otherwise. I’m not changing my mind about that. It’s probably going to be a little less wanting to take the same role as I did last year.

The problem that Mattingly has with simply handing Ethier back his starting gig is multifaceted.

First of all, Ethier is coming off the worst season of his career, one that saw him bat .249 with just four home runs and 42 RBI in 341 at-bats.

“You put up the numbers, you play. It’s pretty simple,” Mattingly said, per Eric Stephen of True Blue LA. “You perform, you compete, and if you win the job, you’re playing.”

Ethier clearly didn’t put up numbers worthy of everyday playing time a season ago. The argument can be made that he never was able to establish a rhythm at the plate with such sporadic at-bats, but maybe he is simply beginning his inevitable decline as a serviceable major league player. Ethier will turn 33 in April.

It’s a legitimate concern for Mattingly and the Dodgers, who must also accommodate the rise of Pederson, their top outfield prospect.

Pederson slashed .303/.435/.582 with 135 hits and 78 RBI in 121 games at Triple-A before his September call-up last season. He became the Pacific Coast League’s first player since 1934 to hit at least 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in the same season, according to Mike Axisa of CBSSports.com.

Mattingly considers Pederson the “best defensive center fielder” on the Dodgers, per Dilbeck, and the rookie will have an opportunity to earn an everyday job at the position during spring training.

Friedman and Zaidi agree with this plan.

“I think we’ll take some time in spring training and assess that, get a feel for him in camp and how he’s handling things,” Friedman told Dilbeck. “It’ll be a discussion we’ll have with the staff and I’m sure it will be an ongoing discussion between now through the last game in March.”

If Pederson holds his own during spring training, which will comprise of more than the 39 plate appearances he made with the big club last September, the Dodgers will likely begin the season with the 22-year-old as their starting center fielder.

Ethier will presumably be unhappy starting the season on the bench yet again, but it will be difficult for Los Angeles to trade him without eating a significant portion of the $56 million he is owed through 2018. Moreover, the team may view Ethier as an above-average insurance policy in case the injury-prone Crawford feels a twinge somewhere along the way.

“I think Joc should have the opportunity to compete for the position. I don’t think we should hand anything over,” Mattingly said, per Stephen. “It’s a spot where there will be competition.”


All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs unless otherwise linked/noted.

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Andre Ethier Is a Difficult Trade, but Could Be a Bounce-Back Candidate

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, MASNSports.com’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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3 Offseason Questions That the Dodgers Still Need to Answer

The Los Angeles Dodgers may have revamped their roster this offseason with a flurry moves during the winter meetings, but there are still questions remaining now that the dust has settled for the time being.

New president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman believes that the roster shakeup has allowed the Dodgers to become “highly functional,” according to MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick, even though last season’s squad functioned well enough to win 94 games and take the NL West division crown.

So what exactly does Friedman perceive as more functional about the 2015 Dodgers?

Advanced metrics indicate that the team’s defense up the middle of the infield—with Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick—is superior to last season’s double-play combination of Hanley Ramirez and Dee Gordon.

The back end of the starting rotation is younger with Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson. Yasmani Grandal should provide some much-needed offensive punch from the catcher position, and manager Don Mattingly will be able to breathe a little easier when it comes to shuffling highly paid outfielders in and out of the lineup now that a sometimes-moody Matt Kemp is down in San Diego.

But not everything has been tied up in a nice little bow just yet. There are still question marks facing the Dodgers with the regular season only three months away.

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