It seems like every year we hear rumor after rumor about the Dodgers attempting to trade Andre Ethier. First, it was because of the overcrowded outfield. Then, it was because Ethier made a comment about how he wanted to be a starter, whether or not it was in Los Angeles. This year, it is because Ethier’s 10-5 rights are about to vest, making him virtually untradeable.
Each and every year, however, the same thing happens: The rumors slowly fade away, Spring Training rolls around and Ethier stays in Dodger Blue. It appears this year is no different.
Or is it?
News out of Cleveland could have serious implications for the Dodgers and Andre Ethier. Major League Baseball announced that Indians center fielder Abraham Almonte was suspended for 80 games after testing positive for the performance-enhancing drug Boldenone. With All-Star outfielder Michael Brantley likely starting the season on the disabled list, the Indians have been trying to figure out how they will fill the hole left in the outfield.
The Indians were likely looking at 26-year-old Almonte to step up as that guy. Almonte only played in 51 games for the Indians after he was acquired at the deadline last season, but they had high hopes that he was going to be a major contributor. Instead, the Indians are two men down in the outfield for at least the first few months of the season, presumably leaving them scrambling.
If the season were to start today, the Indians starting outfield would consist of Rajai Davis, Collin Cowgill, and Lonnie Chisenhall. The trio had a combined batting average of .230 last season with a total of 16 home runs. Brantley hit 15 home runs by himself. Needless to say, the Indians will be in the market for outfield help in the coming weeks or even days. After a comeback season last year, the Indians could attempt to acquire Andre Ethier to fill the void left by the two missing Indians outfielders. With 14 home runs last season, Ethier would bring some much needed power to the outfield as well as a veteran presence.
What makes this trade seem even more possible is the fact that Alex Guerrero also seems to be a good fit in Cleveland and the Dodgers have not been shy about wanting to move him. The starting third baseman for the Indians at this point is likely Giovanny Urshela. In 267 at bats last season, Urshela had a slash line of only .225/.279/.330 with 6 home runs and 8 doubles. Additionally, the Indians current backup at third base would be Jose Ramirez, who has never hit more than 6 home runs in a season and had only a .219 batting average in 2015. Although Guerrero’s numbers from last season aren’t significantly better, he would give the Indians another option at third base as well as other infield positions, and he could possibly even earn his way into a starting outfield position considering their current circumstances. Guerrero and Ethier together could be an attractive package for the Indians, giving them just what they need to stay afloat while Brantley and Almonte work towards returning.
Who the Dodgers would get in return is hard to say. The Dodgers appear to be set at every position at the moment and have a solid 1-7 in the rotation. However, you can never have too many arms (proven by the fact that the Dodgers used 18 different starting pitchers in 2015) and the bullpen could always use improvement. Add to that Hyun-Jin Ryu might not return until May at least, and there a need for another arm might become all the clearer.
The Indians have a number of solid relievers in Bryan Shaw, Jeff Manship, Zach McAllister, Kyle Crockett, and Austin Adams that they may be willing to part with. Starting pitchers like Trevor Bauer and Cody Anderson also stick out as potential trade targets as either pitcher would add depth to the rotation while bringing in a much needed right hander. The Indians also have two prospects in the top 100 prospect rankings, Bradley Zimmer and Clint Frazier, both coming in just past #25 on the list. The Dodgers have made it clear that they value prospects almost as much as MLB ready talent and adding either one of them would give the Dodgers 6 players on the top 100 prospect list.
There’s no way to know if a move is actually coming and nothing has been reported thus far. Part of whether or not the Indians make a move has to do with expectations on the club next season, too, which might not be all that high. Basically, why give up assets to get a stop-gap outfielder or two if the team might not be competitive in the first place?
Cleveland will have to weigh their options, but on the surface, the teams seem at the very least a decent match to make a deal work.