And so it begins. With 121 days until the start of Spring Training for the 2013 season, we have plenty of time to discuss the Tigers' roster for the upcoming season. More specifically, there will be all sorts of over-analysis on which free agent signings and/or trades make the most sense for the Tigers. This is where I come in. As the resident "expert" (I'm using that term very loosely), I'll be taking a close look at any and all names that pop up around the blogosphere. If you like offseason rumor mongering, these posts will be your bread and butter for the next four months. Now that I've explained what the hell I'm doing -- did I really need to in the first place? -- let's get to work. As always, constructive feedback on format, etc. is welcomed and appreciated.
Instead of previewing the free agent outfielder du jour -- Torii Hunter, if you haven't been reading the comments -- I figured it would be more fun to start off with a bang. Earlier today, Buster Olney tweeted that the Los Angeles Dodgers are willing to listen to trade offers for two-time All-Star outfielder Andre Ethier.
Who is he?
Ethier is a 30 year old left-handed outfielder who was originally drafted by the Oakland A's in 2003. He was traded to the Dodgers in 2005 in exchange for Milton Bradley and infielder Antonio Perez (nice work, Beane). Ethier made his MLB debut with the Dodgers in 2006 and has been an incredibly consistent player for them ever since. He has hit .290/.362/.476 in his seven-year career and has eclipsed the .800 OPS mark in all of those seasons except 2011. Despite his down year, he and the Dodgers agreed to a five-year, $85 million contract extension this June, with a $17.5 million vesting option for the 2018 season.
Why should we care?
As mentioned above, his bat is both stellar and consistent. Not to mention, he's putting up some nice power numbers despite playing 100 games a year in Dodger Stadium, AT&T Park, and PETCO Park. Oddly enough, his home splits are much better. He is a .309/.378/.525 hitter at home with 85 home runs in just under 2000 career plate appearances at Chavez Ravine. His walk rate hovered around 10% for the past five seasons prior to regressing slightly to 8.1% in 2012, though I wouldn't label this as a cause for concern by any means. He was worth 3.5 bWAR this season, the highest mark of his career. To put it in simpler terms, he's probably the second-best left-handed bat we will talk about this offseason, after Josh Hamilton.
Why should we stay away?
That contract, for one. I wouldn't say that he's overpaid, but many fans (myself included) have legitimate concerns on whether the Tigers can afford another big contract on the roster. Additionally, getting the Dodgers to part with Ethier will take more than a package of scraps. Defensive metrics aren't a huge fan of his, though they have softened their stance since 2010. His career UZR is -31.1 and he has "saved" -16 runs. While the accuracy of advanced defensive metrics is still up in the air, that kind of consistency is a bit worrying.
Will he end up in Detroit?
Unlikely. The asking price for Ethier will likely begin and end with a package centered around Nick Castellanos, and I'm not sure the Tigers are too keen on adding another big contract to the roster with all the arbitration raises due over the next few seasons. There's a possibility that the Tigers could get a deal done with Rick Porcello and another prospect or two, but I wouldn't bank on it.