Dodgers right fielder Andre Ethier speaks during a news conference Tuesday… (Jae C. Hong / Associated…)
OK, that’s a lot of money for a 30-year-old outfielder. A serious amount of money.
Only the thing is, Andre Ethier left more on the table. Not that the five-year, $85-million contract announced by the team Tuesday wasn’t a reasonable deal for both.
But Ethier was in great position. He had almost all the leverage, had the Dodgers exactly where he wanted.
Understand, they could not let him leave.
They had to bring him back. The Dodgers have only two significant bats in their lineup, and he’s the other one. He was heading for free agency and the rest of the potential market is weak. If they lost Ethier, the only other potentially significant free agent is the Rangers’ Josh Hamilton, who’s a year older and whose baggage would seem a poor fit for Hollywood.
Assuming Ethier stayed healthy and continued to play well, the longer the negotiating process dragged out, the more his price would go up. He was the one in great position.
“That’s correct,” said General Manager Ned Colletti.
The Dodgers have been using some kind of makeshift combo just to find a left fielder for years. Now they’re going to let one of their most popular players enter free agency, with no one in the system or the market to replace him?
It was imperative the Dodgers get this done now and not wait to see how many other teams with new TV money would suddenly be willing to up the ante.
“That’s why we entered into it,” Colletti said. “I’ve probably done five deals in midseason in 25 years, and most of those started in the spring and just kind of carried over a week or two.
“This one we really couldn’t start until we got to the month of May (when new ownership took over). It was a little bit of a tightrope, of we have to be careful with this and in a relatively short period of time, be true to the process.”
If the sixth year vests, Ethier’s deal is worth $100 million. Is he worth it? Probably not, but that’s the current state of the market. Were Jayson Werth and Vernon Wells worth $126 million? Was Carl Crawford worth $142 million?
Ethier has become comfortable in Los Angeles and believes new ownership will lead the franchise back to glory.
“You could have fought for extra money, but there comes a point where you know what’s right and know what’s good for you and the team,” Ethier said.
Stan Kasten, the Dodgers' new president and part-owner, said he knew coming in that extending Ethier would be a priority.
“He covers all the bases,” Kasten said. “He’s good on the field, he’s a Gold Glove, a player who hits in the middle of the lineup. But he’s also a solid family person, who loves this community. That’s the perfect profile. That’s what we want Dodgers to be.”
It was a reasonable deal for both, but a smart one for the Dodgers. Certainly there’s risk in signing someone 30 years old to a potential six-year contract, but it was the play they had to make.
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