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Dodgers' Yasiel Puig could make Andre Ethier obsolete

The Dodgers' situation with Ethier, who last year signed a contract that guarantees him $85 million and is batting .232 through Friday, parallels the Angels and Vernon Wells.

June 08, 2013|By Bill Shaikin, Los Angeles Times
  • Dodgers' Andre Ethier stares at second base after failing to break up a double play against the Atlanta Braves.
Dodgers' Andre Ethier stares at second base after failing to break… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

From Wells to Ethier

For all the magic Yasiel Puig worked in his first week in the major leagues, let us not overlook this trick: He turned Andre Ethier into Vernon Wells.

The Angels took on the $86 million owed to Wells when they traded for him in 2011. He lost his job the next year, with the emergence of Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo in the Angels' outfield, and he was traded to the New York Yankees this year. Of that $86 million, the Angels will end up paying $72 million.

The Dodgers guaranteed $85 million to Ethier when they signed him to a new contract last year. Not every week will be like the first week for Puig, but his ascension makes clear that the Dodgers' best long-term outfield includes Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp and Puig.

There was a time last year where Wells might have ranked as the Angels' fifth-best outfielder, behind Trout, Trumbo, Torii Hunter and Peter Bourjos. Ethier might rank as the Dodgers' fifth-best outfielder right now, assuming everyone is healthy, behind Crawford, Kemp, Puig and Scott Van Slyke. The Dodgers also have Skip Schumaker and Jerry Hairston Jr. available for outfield duty.

Ethier, 31, is batting .232 through Friday, the lowest average of any starting outfielder in the National League West. However, he is a career .287 hitter, and he has been an above-average offensive player every season of his career until this one, according to the on-base plus slugging percentage statistic.

In order to trade Ethier, the Dodgers might have to keep playing him, in the hope he can attract interest by playing better. And, given the hamstring injuries to Crawford and Kemp and the chance that Puig turns mortal, the Dodgers might be better off keeping Ethier as insurance, at least for the rest of the season.

It is not difficult to imagine the Dodgers doing with Ethier this year what the Angels did with Wells last year: keep him through the following spring, when he can hit well enough to convince another team to trade for him and pick up a decent chunk of the contract.

From Cole to Piazza

Gerrit Cole, the former UCLA star, is set to make his major league debut Tuesday for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Yankees drafted Cole in the first round out of Orange Lutheran High, but Cole turned them down for UCLA, then became the first overall pick in the 2011 draft.

The Pirates, by the way, have a better record than the Yankees this year.

Amid all the projections of grandeur for Cole and this year's top pick, Stanford pitcher Mark Appel, this caveat: No player taken with the first overall pick has been inducted into the Hall of Fame.

That will change with Ken Griffey Jr. in 2016, followed by Chipper Jones in 2018. For now, the highest-drafted Hall of Famer is Reggie Jackson, selected by the Kansas City Athletics as the second overall pick in 1966.

According to the Hall of Fame, the lowest-drafted inductee is Ryne Sandberg, selected by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 20th round.

Mike Piazza would retire the title of lowest-drafted Hall of Famer, in the unlikely event he is elected. The Dodgers selected Piazza in the 62nd round, a round that no longer exists.

If he ever were inducted, Piazza would prefer a New York Mets cap on his plaque.

"If the Hall came to me and said, 'We want you to go in as a Dodger,' I'd say, 'Well, then I'll go in as nothing,'" Piazza wrote in his book, "Long Shot."

"I just wouldn't feel comfortable with LA stamped on my head for all of eternity."

— Bill Shaikin

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