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Why the Dodgers should hang on to Andre Ethier

Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier prepares for batting practice before Game 2 of the National League division series against the St. Louis Cardinals.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Here’s an idea sure not to warm the cockles of most Dodgers fans’ hearts:

Don’t trade Andre Ethier.

Don’t trade Carl Crawford or Matt Kemp or Yasiel Puig. Keep ’em all. So what if they don’t make for one big happy family? The idea is to win games, not find your baseball soul mate.

No doubt Ethier would like to be traded. He can have little interest in riding the bench the way he did the second half when Manager Don Mattingly decided on a set outfield lineup that had him with his nose to the glass.

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So it’s just been sort of assumed the Dodgers would try to trade him and eat an unspecified portion of the $56 million still owed him over the next three-plus years. The better the player in return, the more contract they are expected to absorb.

Only there just can’t be much of a market for an outfielder who turns 33 in April and is coming off the worst season of his career (.249, four homers, 42 RBI and .322 on-base and .370 slugging percentages).

But, really, there is no urgent need to move him. If all you’re going to get back is some second-tier prospect or shaky middle reliever while eating millions, you’re better off keeping him. Do you really believe Crawford, Kemp and Puig will stay healthy all next season?

The only motive to deal Ethier is if you really, truly believe that Joc Pederson is a budding superstar who needs to be on the 25-man roster right now, who needs to get some starts, serve as the primary outfield backup and maybe win a job.

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Despite all the Pederson hype, though, he looked like anything but a can’t-miss kid after his late-season call-up. You never want to judge a player’s potential on just 38 plate appearances, but for now it’s impossible not to notice he went 4-for-28 with 11 strikeouts and nine walks. He turns 23 in April, it’s not like starting the year back in triple-A is going to ruin his career.

So I say you keep Ethier. As a fourth outfielder he’s hard to beat. He has played all three positions, and played them pretty well. When Crawford or someone invariably goes down to injury, he’s pretty easy to slip into the lineup. And if he doesn’t completely return to form, you have to suspect he’ll hit better than last season.

Now the downside to this is his potential attitude. He bucked up and played the good solider last season, but cannot be thrilled about coming back and knowing he will be a reserve. It’s not difficult to imagine his outlook won’t be the same next season.

The Dodgers can’t be thrilled about that, but it isn’t exactly a deal breaker, either. They can absorb an unhappy player, or at least the clubhouse can pretty much ignore it.

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It’s a clubhouse of professionals, not some tight-knit group that spends the off-season together singing campfire songs. They’re almost cancer proof. Clayton Kershaw may be the only significant player in the clubhouse universally respected by his peers.

If — and it remains an “if” — Ethier were to go sour and do the pout thing in his corner of the clubhouse, I can’t see it upsetting team morale.

Meanwhile, he’s there and available if needed. Unless a team thinks he’s their missing piece, really wants him and is willing to offer something decent in exchange, you keep him.


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