August 15th, 2013
In life, there are certain advantages that having more money gives you. No, I’m not talking about rich Republicans using it to their advantage. I’m talking about the Dodgers, and the advantage of their $220 million payroll. LA is currently paying 4 outfielders a total of $55 million this year. Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford, and Yasiel Puig. Conveniently enough, all 4 have never been healthy enough to play at the same time. So having 4 quality outfielders hasn’t been a problem……yet.
When Kemp gets healthy in the next two weeks, having this depth will be a luxury. A perfect example was last night, when Don Mattingly summoned Andre Ethier off his bench to pinch-hit in the bottom of the 9th inning, and Ethier delivered a game tying 2-run homer. In a few weeks, one of these stud outfielders will be coming off the bench and playing less. However, if the Dodgers keep winning, everyone will remain happy.
But what about after this season? Should the Dodgers keep all 4 of these guys or consider trading one? Puig is already a superstar on a very affordable contract, so he can’t be traded. Matt Kemp has the most trade value, but he’s only 28, and was playing like an MVP just one year ago. Carl Crawford is still a useful leadoff hitter for LA, and his contract would be expensive for many other clubs. Andre Ethier’s numbers have been down this year, and probably wouldn’t return much in a trade. Why not keep all 4?
Trading the likes of Ethier or Crawford would probably bring back nothing more than an expensive, underachieving, veteran pitcher in return. That is something the Dodgers don’t need. What they will need in the winter is a 3rd baseman. That’s why they need to teach Ethier to play 3rd. Puig’s arm is to good to move from the outfield. Kemp is still a gold glove center fielder. And Crawford is a bit fragile at this stage of his career to play the hot corner. That leaves Ethier, who has the arm and the athleticism to learn the position in the off-season.
All 4 of these outfielders are getting paid great money for the next several years, so keeping them happy shouldn’t be hard. As long as the team continues to win, why not give a great lineup a chance to be even greater? Moving Ethier to 3rd would mean an everyday lineup of Crawford-Puig-Kemp-Ramirez-Gonzales-Ethier, which would be the new “Murderer’s Row”.
When you can afford a $220 million payroll, you can afford to have 4 expensive outfielders. The Dodgers should make every effort to keep all 4 of them, and give them every opportunity to succeed together. Ethier at 3rd not only allows all of them to play everyday, but provides great depth and flexibility for the Boys in Blue if one of their outfielders get hurt. In that case, Ethier could move right back to the outfield. In the meantime, this situation seems to be working itself out because the Dodgers are rolling,