The Ethier Situation

I can’t decide whether the Dodger’s situation this season is depressing, funny, or so depressing that it is funny. James Loney‘s continued presence and playing time is sad/ridiculous in itself — maybe manager Don Mattingly thinks his own 1995 season with the Yankees wasn’t so bad (he was Donnie Freaking Baseball, after all!), and Loney has been almost that “good.” But today’s Donnie Baseball-related news (and we know that’s what brings you here to FanGraphs) isn’t about Loney, but about right fielder Andre Ethier.

Ethier has been playing on a bad knee that will require surgery in the off-season, and reportedly feels like the Dodgers don’t care. Unsurprisingly, neither Mattingly nor Ned ‘Snakeskin Boots‘ Colletti weren’t all that pleased about Ethier’s public comments. You can follow the links for the he said-he said. It does seem, given the situation between Ethier and management, the organization’s financial and (non-)competitive situation, and Ethier’s coming jump in salary, that he is probably on his way out as a Dodger. Unfortunately, assuming they plan on trading Ethier in the off-season, he doesn’t have all that much value.

The Dodgers don’t have to trade Ethier, of course. Maybe this situation will calm down, the ownership situation will get resolved (stranger things have happened), and/or management will decide (wrongly) that they can contend in 2012. But assuming they do want to trade him, what is he worth?

Ethier is finishing the second year of a two-year, $15.25 million contract he signed for 2010 and 2011. However, he still has one more year of arbitration left (it will count as his fourth). Given that he’s making $9.25 million this season (before considering the playing time incentives in his contract), conservatively speaking he would probably make something like $12 million in arbitration.

Ethier, 29, is having a down season at the plate (.286/.363/.411, .338 wOBA), and has hit progressively worse since peaking with a 133 wRC+ in 2008. ZiPS sees him as a .340 hitter for the rest of the season, but with only 114 projected plate appearances left, the error margin is a bit steep for projecting true talent. The August 22 update from OLIVER’s true-talent projections see him as a .370 wOBA hitter this season, and a .359 wOBA hitter next season. Next season is what we’re interested in, and a .359 wOBA is about 24 runs above average per 700 plate appearances.

Fielding is interesting. Prior to 2011, both fielding metrics and the Fans Scouting Report saw him as a poor defender. For 2011 so far, however, both UZR and Dewan have him about 5 runs above average. That’s a bit encouraging, but just as past performance trumped the current season in the offensive projections, we can’t let the current season let us forget what he’s done defensively in the past. I have him projected as five runs below average in the corner outfield positions for 2012.

Putting it all together: + 24 offense – 7.5 positional adjustment – 5 fielding + 20 NL replacement level = 32 runs above replacement. After adjusting for playing time, I have Ethier around 2.5 WAR for 2012.

At this point, it is difficult to say what the average cost of a marginal win will be in the off-season. Assuming it increases to $5.5 million, that would mean Ethier projects to be worth about $14 million dollars. If he gets around $12 million dollars in arbitration, that leaves about $2 million dollars of surplus. That is meaningful, but not quite as much as some might expect. Straight up, it would probably bring back a C-level prospect of some sort. However, there are other factors at work. Teams are likely to be cautious when trading for a player coming off of surgery, and that might hurt Ethier’s trade value. The Dodgers could always throw in money to increase their return, but the organization’s financial health is much worse than Ethier’s physical health. I guess it beats non-tendering him.

“It beats non-tendering him”: just another cherry on top of the Dodgers’ 2012.



Print This Post



Matt Klaassen reads and writes obituaries in the Greater Toronto Area. If you can't get enough of him, follow him on Twitter.


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Grant
Guest
Grant

About five minutes after the season ends, Colletti’s phone rings: “Hi Ned? It’s Alex calling from Toronto …” and about ten minutes later Ethier will be sent north.

Ben
Guest
Ben

yawn. that’s the go to assumption with any “problem player” these days. ethier wants to be a red sock, and a red sock he shall be.

Yirmiyahu
Member
Yirmiyahu

The Red Sox aren’t going to acquire another left handed outfielder.

jim
Guest
jim

the red sox are shelling out huge change for carl crawford to blow chunks, they’re not going to pay ethier $15 mil for similar performance but less upside.

siggian
Member
siggian

I would hope a pitcher would accompany him because the Jays need quality starting or relief pitching more than they need an outfielder. Ethier would be battling Snider and Thames for LF.

wpDiscuz