Thursday, May 01, 2014

ESPN's Bowden: Trade Ethier Now, Crawford Later's Jim Bowden looked at the Dodgers' crowded outfield, and concluded that Andre Ethier should be traded now, with Carl Crawford to go after 2014 (link insider only):

The Dodgers’ long-term blueprint for their outfield should be Puig in right field, Pederson in center field and Kemp in left field. All three are All-Star-caliber and complete players in their 20s. Crawford and Ethier, meanwhile, are both 32.

If it were me, I’d deal either Crawford or Ethier now and the other in the offseason because Pederson will be ready to start in 2015, if not before.

Ethier is valuable because he can play all three outfield positions, while Crawford is limited to left field. Crawford is valuable, though, because he’s an important table-setter at the top of the lineup and the team’s second-best stolen base threat, while Ethier is better suited for the sixth or seventh spot in the lineup. Both have great makeup and love L.A.; neither wants to be traded.

The problem is that both of their contracts are so exorbitant that it will be difficult for the Dodgers to trade them unless they get a bad contract in return or are willing to eat a significant amount. Ethier is due $15.5 million this year, $18 million in both 2015 and 2016 and $17.5 million in 2017, and he has a vesting option for the same amount in 2018 with a $2.5 million buyout. Crawford is due $20.5 million in 2015, $20.75 million in 2016 and $21 million in 2017.

The most difficult part for Colletti and the Dodgers will be to find a trade partner who has interest in Ethier or Crawford, two over-30 players who are off to slow starts and have enormous contracts.

What should the Dodgers expect back? They would prefer a package of prospects with a possible long-term answer for third base or catcher, or perhaps a position player or pitcher who is not coming through in their minor league pipeline. But to get elite talent they'd have to eat a lot of salary, and it's likely they'd have to take on another big contract in any Crawford or Ethier deal.

Potential trade partners

Obvious teams that might be in line for Crawford or Ethier would be the Detroit Tigers, Seattle Mariners, Chicago Cubs or Minnesota Twins. All have a need for outfielders and should have the resources if they can negotiate down the contracts. Ethier or Crawford would be an upgrade over Rajai Davis in Detroit; the Mariners could use another bat to support Robinson Cano; the Cubs need to put a more respectable major league outfield together as they wait for their future to arrive; and the Twins need more help for Joe Mauer and Chris Colabello in the middle of their lineup as they try to contend for the first time in a few years.

The Dodgers need to commit to their best three outfielders and play them every day while trading the other, and they should do it in confidence knowing that Pederson will be as good as advertised.

It’s not an easy decision, but if I had to trade one, I’d look to move Ethier because I think the lineup is more lethal with the speed of Dee Gordon and Crawford at the top followed by Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Kemp and Puig.

Ethier went 2-for-4 with a RBI yesterday to lift his average to .227. Crawford, on the other hand, went 0-for-4 and is still struggling in 2014 with a .194 BA.