Finally the required Andre Ethier rumor: White Sox exploring deal

Ah, finally a real Andre Ethier rumor.

Inevitable as a spring blossom, but seemingly made more so this year because it can be argued this time the Dodgers need to trade him before his 10-5 rights kick on April 21. After that, they can’t deal him without his permission.

Yet it’s been oddly quiet on the Ethier rumor front.

Now a rumor has arrived, this one coming via tweet from MLB.com’s Phil Rogers.

The White Sox are exploring a deal for Ethier.

The Dodgers, of course, continue to have a surplus of outfielders, particularly of the starting variety. And more particularly, of the left-handed hitting variety.

The Dodgers would likely prefer to move Carl Crawford, who has two years left at a total of $41.75 million. Ethier has two years guaranteed at $35.5 million, plus a $17.5-million option that kicks for 2018 if he makes 550 plate appearances in 2017 (with a $2.5-million buyout).

Both will be playing the coming season at age 34, but Crawford has had trouble staying healthy the last two years, while Ethier reestablished his value last season by turning in a solid .294/.366/.486 line. All but 48 of his 397 plate appearances came against right-handers.

That’s the kind of production that has caught the eye of the White Sox, who have been searching for a left-handed bat. Previously they were in on free agents Yoenis Cespedes and Alex Gordon, before they re-signed with their clubs.

But Chicago is apparently still interested in someone to platoon with right-handed outfielder Avisail Garcia, and could need a backup to designated hitter Adam LaRoche who is 36 and last season slumped to a .207/.293/.340 line.

For any deal to transpire, the Dodgers would no doubt have to contribute a significant amount to Ethier’s contract. CBS Chicago’s Bruce Levine estimates that the Dodgers would have to eat at least half of Ethier’s contract to get talks progressing.

It’s unclear what the Dodgers would want coming back, but certainly Ethier has enough value to warrant something of semi-significance. The Dodgers already received three White Sox prospects back in that three-way trade in December, which mean that, if nothing else, they are well versed in players from the White Sox system.

If the Dodgers were to move Ethier, they would still have an outfield stable of Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson, Scott Van Slyke, Enrique Hernandez and Crawford, plus one of the prospects in that White Sox trade, Trayce Thompson.

Ethier’s 10-5 rights -- 10 years in the majors, the last five with the same club -- kick in three weeks into the season. After that, he could veto any trade, so both sides have motivation to make a deal. All those off-seasons of Ethier rumors, and this could finally be the year the longtime Dodger is traded.

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