The season has officially reached a conclusion and free agency will open in a few days, which means plenty of rumors, signings, and trades. In fact, the rumors have already begun.
Buster Olney of ESPN tweeted Monday that the Dodgers could look to trade Andre Ethier this upcoming off season, just months after inking him to a five-year $85 million extension.
While rumors are rumors, there seems to be credibility to this rumor in particular.
The Tigers had a successful year in 2012, but they fell short of the ultimate goal. Acquiring Ethier certainly won’t guarantee another American League pennant, but their odds will increase dramatically.
Need For An Outfielder
Tigers’ management announced Tuesday that they do not plan on offering a contract to ALCS MVP Delmon Young. And this is probably a wise choice. Young posted a solid line in the postseason, but during the regular season he was nothing but mediocre with an OPS just a shade north of .700. Plus, he is not very flexible in terms of the positions he can play, making him strictly a designated hitter, and with Victor Martinez returning next year, that spot is his.
Basically, the Tigers have with Austin Jackson as the centerpiece in an outfield that struggled as a group last year. If they were to open the regular season today without making any moves, the alignment would be Quintin Berry or Andy Dirks in left field, Jackson in centerfield, and Brennan Boesch in right. Several words can describe that group, but few of them are positive.
Defense presumably wouldn’t be a concern with above average speed being an element at all three spots, but offensively, there would be some growing pains. For a team that is coming off a year where they won the American League pennant, expectations will be much higher, and with an outfield loaded of question marks, Detroit would seemingly limbo under those lofty expectations.
Ethier, however, would add a formidable appearance to a Tigers’ right field that hit just 22 home runs last year (6th lowest total in A.L). Additionally, Detroit right fielders posted the lowest WAR (-2.0) in the American League, and posted a league worst -25 UZR. Instead of constantly scrambling to pin-point the best options, Ethier would shore up the gap in right field, providing instant production with his experienced bat.
Outside of Prince Fielder, the Tigers lack an alternate left-handed power hitter. Alex Avila, Andy Dirks, Brennan Boesch, and Quintin Berry combined to compile 31 home runs during the regular season. Fielder, alone hit 30 homers. That comparison speaks should get the point across. Therefore, a lefty power bat would pay dividends in a right-handed heavy Tigers’ lineup.
Some might be wondering if Ethier actually fits the bill of a pure power hitter. The truth is, he’s not a pure power hitter, per se. Since 2008, he has averaged 21 home runs per year and 24 per 162 games. Those two marks can certainly not compare to Fielder’s 32 home run average or Miguel Cabrera’s 32 average, but an average of 21 home runs would be a vast upgrade over Detroit’s current corps.
If the Tigers were to add Ethier, Leyland would have the benefit of placing him in front of Cabrera and Fielder. Not only would Cabrera thrive with the added protection, but Ethier would seemingly be the biggest beneficiary with the triple crown winner and a lethal power hitter batting behind him.
The other road Leyland could embark on, is to use Martinez in the third spot in the lineup instead of Ethier. Being a switch-hitter, Martinez wouldn’t create any match up problems in the later innings, and would strengthen the bottom portion of Detroit’s lineup. So instead, the Tigers would have Martinez batting third, Cabrera fourth, Fielder fifth, and Ethier six where he is a career .300 hitter.
I’ll let you imagine the potency of that 3-6 combo.
They Are One Of The Few Teams That Can Trade For Him
Ethier’s contract is far from expiring, meaning any team that gets him wouldn’t be off the hook entirely. With that in mind, the Dodgers would likely aid any suitors with his contract, but if the Tigers were to compose a deal for him, they would still have to pick up a good fraction of the $85 million he’s owed over the next five years.
The thing is, they can. At the moment, Detroit has roughly $91 million committed to players in 2013. With their payroll exceeding $130 in 2012, a slight increase seems feasible. A payroll increase along with the Dodgers aiding them, would look to be enough to acquire the left-handed slugger.
Aside from the financial situations, the Tigers would be in thin competition for Ethier considering that there are only few teams that could take on the veteran, both from a financial standpoint and talent standpoint.
To name a few, the Indians, Royals, and Twins are teams that could use a surge of production from their outfield, but that trio of squads have one thing in common—they don’t have the resources financially to enroll Ethier.
If Detroit really wants to increase their chances of returning to the World Series in 2013 and beyond, adding Andre Ethier would be a wise move.