According to several reports, the Los Angeles Dodgers are expressing interest in trading Andre Ethier, less than four months after signing the right fielder to a five year contract extension worth $85 million. The deal, which was seen as something of an overpay at the time, was made to look worse as the year progressed and Ethier’s struggles against left-handed pitching became more pronounced.
Typically, when a team signs a player ahead of free agency, as the Dodgers did with Ethier, the club receives a discount for taking on the risk that something will happen to nullify some value between when the contract was signed and when the player’s free agent eligibility was to begin. It’s difficult to imagine that this is what happened for Los Angeles, given the relative strength of the outfield free agent market this offseason, and where Ethier ranks.
In other words, why would a team be willing to give up assets this off season for Ethier and what will likely be a burdensome contract, when they could sign a player like Nick Swisher to a similar deal without giving up additional assets to acquire him?
The answer is that they wouldn’t.
If the Dodgers truly hope to acquire anything at all for Ethier and pursue some of the free agent outfielders available like Josh Hamilton or retain the services of Shane Victorino, the team will have to be willing to eat some of the $85 million owed to the left-handed hitter over the next five seasons. The only team I could think of that would be willing to take on such a contract in a trade would be the team that’s currently shopping him around.