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Could the Dodgers actually trade Andre Ethier when they need him most?

Andre Ethier

Once again, the Dodgers are listening to offers for Andre Ethier.

(David Zalubowski / AP)

This just in: The Dodgers are trying to trade Andre Ethier. In other news, it’s cold in the winter, Vin Scully is a good guy and there’s a science-fiction movie coming out Friday.

Ethier and off-season trade rumors are like end-of-the-year Top 10 lists: just something you have to deal with. This, though, is the year that many are convinced it will actually happen because by the end of April, Ethier will attain his 10-5 rights (10 years in the majors, five consecutive with the same team), and he will be able to veto any trade.

If that provides management with an added impetus to move him now, it comes at a time when Ethier may actually be their most reliable weapon in that still overstuffed outfield.

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All the other outfielders come with problems, or at least questions. Carl Crawford cannot stay healthy, Joc Pederson fell off a baseball cliff in the second half of the season and Yasiel Puig’s production and clubhouse popularity continue to decline.

And then there’s Ethier, coming off one of his finest seasons (.294/.366/.486) at age 33.

Much of that is Ethier’s finally being used almost exclusively against right-handers, his remaining healthy and his perseverance. Right now, he’s a valuable, stable piece in an otherwise uncertain outfield.

But Tuesday, in a column aimed to urge caution among fans impatient by the front office’s inaction, Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal wrote that the Dodgers are “trying to trade Andre Ethier and/or Carl Crawford.”

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On itself, it’s bears hibernate in the winter. It’s hard to remember the last off-season when there weren’t Ethier trade rumors.

Yet even if Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi were more motivated to move Ethier this winter, they still face the same serious obstacle. Ethier is owed $38 million over the next two seasons. The Dodgers would have to absorb a significant amount of his contract — a tool they hardly shied from using last year — to move him. And even then, they are unlikely to get much of significance in return without packaging him as part of a multiplayer trade.

It would serve the Dodgers better to trade Crawford, but that’s an even greater challenge. Crawford, 34, was healthy for only 69 games last season, and when he was in there, his production slipped (.265/.304/.403). Crawford hasn’t been healthy for a full season since 2010. He also has two years remaining on his contract and $43.5 million. And the market for aging, declining, injury-prone outfielders is not exactly on the upswing.

However, a team interested in winning now but needing a left-handed hitting outfielder would show interest in Ethier at the right discount. And at a time when the Dodgers may actually need him.

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