Great philosopher of our time Chris Rock once remarked on the difference between being rich and being wealthy. Sure, a professional athlete drawing huge paychecks is rich, but the owners who are able to pay somebody that much are wealthy. In baseball terms, I feel like this divide can be expressed in a similar way: anybody can sign free agents but only the truly wealthy teams can pay people just to go away.
The Dodgers are as wealthy as it gets in baseball. After buying up all the Red Sox contract albatrosses at the end of last season then signing Zack Greinke this December, the Dodgers have one of the best teams in baseball on paper.
Having the best team on paper in December doesn’t preclude the Dodgers from seeking upgrades. Considering LA goes into the season with an outfield of Jerry Hairston Jr. (until Carl Crawford comes back) – Matt Kemp – and Andre Ethier, there is certainly room to upgrade. How will the Dodgers look to create space? Perhaps moving the very-recently-signed Ethier will do the trick.
It seems like just yesterday the Dodgers signed Andre Ethier to a five-year, $75 Million extension. It seems that was because it basically was – the Dodgers inked the deal just six months ago. The extension is just set to kick in for the 2013 season, where the Dodgers will pay him as though he is a four Win player.
While Andre Ethier is an effective baseball player, I think 4 WAR might be slightly beyond his reach. He is fresh off a season in which he performed as well as can reasonably be expected: Ethier posted a .350 wOBA and more than 3 WAR by both flavors. Never known for his defensive prowess Ethier’s value stats suggest a league-average corner outfielder who produces above-average offense.
Officially on the wrong side of thirty, it will become more and more difficult for Ethier to play up to his contract. Not many teams are rushing to sign decent but overpaid players still owed $75 million through 2017.
Enter the wealthy Dodgers.
While the Dodgers “insist” they aren’t shopping Ethier, Ken Rosenthal suggests they will listen to offers on their right fielder. The Dodgers might choose to upgrade by signing a player such as Michael Bourn, completing Matt Kemp’s all-but-inevitable move to right field.
Eating some money is not beyond the Dodgers capabilities nor is it beyond their craven desire to buy the best team imaginable. Michael Bourn would give the Dodgers something they desperately need with his defense in center and base running, and eating some salary might give the Dodgers some sort of piece they could use.
The Dodgers don’t have so many holes in the lineup that one glaring need stands out. They have an expensive core of bench players with multiple position capabilities and enviable starting pitching depth with Ted Lilly and Chris Capuano currently 6 and 7 on their starters depth chart – even without Chad Billingsley in the mix.
Where might Ethier land? Rosenthal suggests Boston, Seattle, Atlanta and even New York as potential trade partners for Ethier’s services. Atlanta would be a nice landing spot though the tightwad Braves ownership group will require the Dodgers swallow almost the entire salary chunk.
It is here where the Dodgers financial might really starts to get scary. The ability to sweep mistakes under the rug and throw good money after bad should really cause mid-market clubs to stand up and take notice. The Dodgers can afford to outbid anyone and, should the deal not work out or simply a better option materialize, they can simply walk away without breaking a sweat.
A chilling thought, though the ability to pick up valuable players like Ethier for pennies on the dollar suggests that a smart team can pick the Dodgers wealthy bones and come away ahead. Nothing wrong with shopping on the pre-loved car market, I suppose.