Last year, rumors swirled that the Los Angeles Dodgers were interested in trading two-time All-Star outfielder Andre Ethier. With the emergence of Yasiel Puig during the 2013 season, Ethier has become even more expendable. Yahoo's Tim Brown indicated that interest in Ethier ranged from "moderate to moderate-plus." Could the Tigers be interested in picking up Ethier for 2014?
Who is he?
Ethier is a 31 year old outfielder who was originally drafted by the Oakland A's. He was flipped to the Dodgers in 2005 before debuting in 2006 as a 24 year old. He has been very consistent at the plate ever since, putting up an .800 OPS in six of his eight seasons. He mashes right-handed pitching, with a career .906 OPS and 119 of his 141 home runs against righties.
Why should we care?
Ethier is coming off a season in which he put up a .783 OPS and .340 wOBA. Both are career worsts, which says something about his ability as a hitter. He has a career walk rate approaching 10% with a strikeout rate below league average. His career ISO is a modest .182 despite playing the majority of his games in the NL West, which contains three of the most cavernous stadiums in all of baseball.
Why should we stay away?
If the Tigers are serious about limiting their budget in 2014 and beyond, Ethier's contract could be a big hang-up. In June of 2012 he signed a five year, $85.5 million extension with a vesting option for the 2018 season. This wouldn't be a bad deal if he continues to maintain his current offensive production, but he's already coming off a down year at 31 years old and has serious problems hitting lefties. He has a .644 career OPS against southpaws in nearly 1200 plate appearances. Paying a platoon bat -- even a very good one like Ethier -- $17.5 million per season isn't the best way to limit payroll.
Will he end up in Detroit?
It's unlikely, but I like the odds of it happening better than I did last year. Ethier's down year and the Dodgers' outfield logjam has lowered Ethier's asking price, and an Ethier-for-Porcello swap isn't too far-fetched given Ethier's massive contract. However, it seems that the Tigers have set their priorities elsewhere early on this offseason. If something happens, I would wager that it comes closer to Spring Training.