By trading Matt Kemp to the San Diego Padres, the Los Angeles Dodgers freed themselves from a contract with over $108 million remaining that was to be paid the next five seasons. Granted, their actual savings is less when taking into account the $18 million they’ll send the Padres in 2015 and $3.5 million annually the next four years.
While Kemp no longer being on the roster provides some financial relief, the Dodgers are still looking at a payroll in excess of $250 million. On the roster are other large contracts, particularly in the outfield. Among them is Andre Ethier’s, which according to Grantland’s Jonah Keri, is the ninth-worst in baseball:
9. OF Andre Ethier, Los Angeles Dodgers: three years, $56 million (dishonorable mention)9
Ethier was a good hitter when the Dodgers dropped a five-year contract into his lap in June 2012, but he wasn’t particularly good at anything else, making the extension a puzzler at the time, and a decision that has looked worse with each passing day. Because this is the Dodgers and not the Royals or Rays, this contract hasn’t crippled the team’s finances. But the problem is that even big-revenue, well-run clubs feel compelled to play the guy with the big contract, and even those clubs can become reluctant to spend more money to find someone better.
Luckily for the Dodgers, Yasiel Puig turned into a star and Joc Pederson matured into an exciting prospect who could open some eyes if he wins the starting center-field job this spring as expected. So instead of being a total anchor, Ethier will merely wind up being a fourth outfielder making $18 million a year and offering zero trade value.
As Keri notes in his 2015 rankings, Ethier made the ‘dishonorable mention’ list in 2014. However, the Dodgers’ presence as a team has declined since the list’s inception in 2013 and the second-annual version last year.
In 2013, Keri listed Gonzalez as having the 14th-worst contract, League 13th-worst, Juan Uribe eighth-worst and Crawford second-worst. Last year, Keri also included Josh Beckett as a dishonorable mention in 2014, and he pegged Adrian Gonzalez as tied for the 15th-worst contract, Brandon League 10th-worst, Carl Crawford ninth-worst and Chad Billingsley as having the eighth-worst contract.
Prior to the 2014 season, Jesse Spector of SportingNews.com believed Crawford’s contract was the worst on the team, and conversely called Hanley Ramirez’s the best. Of the five Dodgers Keri mentioned in his 2014 list, Beckett has since retired, and the Dodgers declined the team option on Billingsley, who recently signed a Minor-League deal with the Philadelphia Phillies.
Given the little trade value Ethier holds, it’s difficult to envision him not being with the Dodgers for the 2015 season. They reportedly attempted trading him to the Arizona Diamondbacks only to have the deal nixed. More recently, the Baltimore Orioles were said to have engaged the Dodgers in trade talks for Ethier, but nothing materialized.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said in January he expects Ethier to be with the team in Spring Training, which is now less than two weeks away. For his part, Ethier has been open and consistent his desire to play and start for the Dodgers.