Ethier is a staple in the middle of the LA lineup, and he showed in 2009 that he has the ability to carry a team with clutch performance in the postseason. This season, however, may ultimately be his lame duck campaign in Dodger blue.
Negotiations have seemingly been unsuccessful to this point, and Ethier himself has sounded rather pessimistic about his future out west:
“A lot of signs are pointing that way [in terms of this being his final year in LA]." "If I don't play well, we have seen them non-tender guys here. If you do play well, sometimes they don't offer those guys arbitration because their salaries are too high." [courtesy of ESPN.com]
While this does not at all mean anything of certainty, it seems as though there is a rising sense of frustration surrounding the talks. Ethier simply thinking about life after LA so soon is a disconcerting concept.
In the event that talks disintegrate to the point of a non-tender, the Dodgers’ hitting star will undoubtedly be a hot commodity on the open market.
What team will be the most aggressive in that pursuit, however, in both compensation and general recruitment?
That’s where the perennial free agency heavyweights out of Bronx, NY come into play.
Following the 2011 MLB season, the New York Yankees have the ability to clear more than $30 million off of the payroll. While money is often times not a factor in their persistence to improve, this money—and potentially more—will soon be relocated.
Current right fielder Nick Swisher has been a fan-favorite, a clubhouse gift, and a valuable producer on the field for New York. That said, we’d be naïve to think that would prevent them from jumping at the opportunity to acquire a talent like Ethier.
In theory, the Yankees could replace Swisher’s .148 Yankees postseason average—in addition to Jorge Posada’s purged salary—with an All-Star who has proven October is not too big for him.
Ethier’s left-handed swing would transition very well to the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium, and he would likely flourish in a lineup housing Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano.
The move would not be a popular one within the Yankees fan base, and I would completely understand their disappointment. Swisher has been the consummate teammate, and no one treats the fans with more respect and adoration.
What fans need to remember is that “Swish” is a career .250 hitter, and not long ago was so devalued that he was moved straight-up for Wilson Betemit.
The 2010 season was the exception as opposed to the rule, and he is typically good for 25-30 HR, 80 RBI and a .250 AVG. Ethier, on the other hand, is capable of putting up .300, 30, and 110 in pinstripes.
One player is a scrappy overachiever who provides fuel to a smooth running hemi engine. The other is an established star with additional upside, and one that would help inject another younger star into an otherwise aging lineup.
Assuming New York makes a move for a starting pitcher at some point in 2011, their rotation will be set with CC Sabathia, “Trade Target X”, Phil Hughes, AJ Burnett, and Manny Banuelos heading into 2012.
This will allow them to focus on other areas in the offseason, and the Steinbrenners will find it difficult to pass up the opportunity to bulk up—especially if Boston finds a way to recapture AL East supremacy.
A ringing endorsement from reconnected Yankee alumnus Joe Torre would do nothing but fan the flames of their interest, and they know they need to add more punch as Derek Jeter, Rodriguez, and others continue to move toward their 40s.
Nothing is written in stone with the situation, and Ethier could easily turn around and sign an extension in LA before Easter. Signs are beginning to point to the contrary, however, and New York is one team who will undoubtedly display interest.
It would be difficult for Yankees Universe to watch No. 33 walk out the clubhouse doors in “The House that George Built” for the final time, but Ethier’s talent is simply far superior.
If LA’s late-20s star hits the open market next winter, expect the Yankees to make a very strong push to have him trade in one shade of blue for another. His situation is one to watch closely during the 2011 season, so stay tuned.