The Baltimore Orioles lost both Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis to free agency and the club has spent much of the off-season looking to replace their production and playing time in the outfield via free agency.
While the club has been linked to Colby Rasmus, Nori Aoki, and Ichiro Suzuki of late; it seems they’re beginning to look at other alternatives.
According to a recent report by Roch Kubatko of MASN, the Orioles “have engaged in trade talks with the Dodgers regarding Andre Ethier.”
While the trade would, seemingly, help both parties – the Dodgers are still overloaded on big league outfielders and the Orioles need some left-handed punch in the outfield corners – it’s hard to imagine this deal working out.
Ethier – who turns 33 in April – still has three years and $53.5 million remaining on his contract. That includes a vesting option worth $17.5 million for 2018, or a $2.5 million buyout. That’s a whole lot of scratch when you consider the Orioles could probably sign both Rasmus and Aoki for a fraction of that total.
Admittedly, the Dodgers have proven this off-season that they’re willing to absorb a lot of money to make a move happen, but any significant financial assistance from Los Angeles would require the Orioles to surrender a much better prospect.
Perhaps that’s the biggest sticking point – forget the money – is Ethier even worth a legitimate prospect at this point in his career?
Ethier had a good run where he posted above average numbers with decent pop and solid OBPs, but his regression has been obvious over the past couple of seasons. That regression reached a new low last summer when Ethier hit a meager .249/.322/.370 with four home runs, 17 doubles, and 42 RBI in 341 at-bats.
While Ethier’s power has been slipping for years, it hit rock bottom in 2014 and appeared to get worse as the season wore on. Of the four home runs Ethier hit last year, not a single one of them came in the second half. Ethier’s power was so non-existent after the All-Star break that he strung together a grand total of six extra base hits (four doubles, two triples) for the rest of the season.
It’s possible that his power numbers could rebound with a move to cozy Camden Yards, but power isn’t the only issue – given his career splits – the Orioles would need to consider a platoon to get the most out of Ethier.
Although – as 2014 proved – that might not even work anymore.
Ethier has never been much of a hitter against lefties, with a career .641 OPS, but he cratered to the tune of a .567 OPS against southpaws in 2014. Even worse, despite a career .888 OPS against right-handers, he slipped to a .710 OPS in 2014.
Essentially, he lost the ability to hammer right-handers and he simply stopped hitting at all against lefties. At this point, he looks like fourth or fifth outfielder material and not an everyday player.
Ethier could rebound in 2015 in the right situation, but he looked like a player on his last legs for much of last season and it’s hard to imagine the Orioles voluntarily locking themselves into that for the next three years, regardless of the cost in prospects or dollars.
As for Ethier, he’s likely going to find himself the odd man out in Los Angeles yet again this spring with Carl Crawford, Joc Pederson, and Yasiel Puig as the likely candidates to start in the outfield.
Ultimately, I don’t think this deal gets done. The Orioles can find better, cheaper alternatives to Ethier in free agency without sacrificing prospects.
I don’t believe Ethier is long for Los Angeles, and he’ll likely be moved in 2015, but Baltimore doesn’t seem like a match.