Rumors continue to circulate that the two teams are talking, including a recent tweet from Mike Petriello of ESPN.
Yes. RT @prospectinsider: Hearing Mariners have progressed in trade talks for a hitter. Indications it's Ethier. Multiple players involved.— Mike Petriello (@mike_petriello) December 31, 2012
Certainly the Mariners need offensive help and Ethier has proven to be a solid player throughout his career. All things being equal, Ethier would be a nice addition to any lineup.
Nice, but not must-have.
For the Mariners, it isn’t just about adding nice pieces. Instead, Seattle is in a payroll situation where it always has to be very careful about expensive contracts.
Go ahead and take a chance on a one-year deal for Jason Bay.
Don’t commit five years to Andre Ethier.
This is not the NFL where teams can more easily cut a player when they get hurt or stop producing.
Ethier officially qualifies as an expensive contract, at least from the standpoint of the Mariners.
In 2012, Ethier was signed to a five-year, $85 million contract extension that begins in 2013. This was part of the new-regime Dodgers and their free-spending ways in 2012.
For Seattle, Ethier could be a pricey part of the payroll for quite some time.
If the Dodgers want to pick up a sizeable part of the contract, that could change part of the equation. However, it is doubtful that Los Angeles will pay that much of the deal.
There are a numbers of strikes (no pun intended) against an Ethier trade.
Ethier will turn 31 at the beginning of the 2013 season. The Mariners do not necessarily want a 36-year-old outfielder in 2017 that is making $17.5 million.
Andre’s career statistics (via Baseball-Reference.com), are solid, and Seattle could certainly benefit from a player who is a career .290 hitter. Ethier has been a very consistent player at the plate throughout his career, as his career low was .272 in 2009.
But if the Mariners are looking for Ethier to provide more power in the lineup, they may be disappointed.
Ethier did hit 31 home runs one year, but that was in 2009. Since then, his seasonal home run totals have been 23, 11 and 20.
These are good numbers compared to the current Seattle lineup, but Ethier is not exactly slugger material, particularly as he ages.
Then there is Ethier’s health, which has been adequate, but not exactly stellar.
Throughout his career, Ethier has never played a full season of baseball. He played the most games in 2009 (can you say career year?) when he played 160 games and drove in a career-best 106.
Over the last three seasons, Ethier’s games played has looked like this:
You wouldn’t put those numbers in the “injury-prone” category, but these totals should raise some concerns about durability.
Guys who have missed games in the past do not typically get healthier as they get older.
The question the Mariners have to ask is whether they want to pay a guy an average of $17 million a year to play 140 games and hit 20 home runs.
That may be a more conservative projection for a player like Ethier, but it is arguably realistic considering what he has produced in recent years.
If Ethier follows the normal decline experienced by many baseball players, he could be hitting .260 with 12-15 home runs in a couple of seasons.
Is that worth $17 million a year?
Even with the shorter fences at Safeco Field, is Andre going to pound 30 home runs and play 150-160 games for the next five years?
That seems unlikely. History is against such a scenario.
If the Mariners were looking for a complementary player and they had additional payroll flexibility, it might be a good deal to ship a couple of prospects to Los Angeles for Andre Ethier.
However, the future for Ethier is not necessarily bright. He certainly is not worth one of Seattle’s premier pitching projects.
Too many years, too much money and too many questions in the latter years of the contract.
This trade rumor has some intrigue, but Seattle should let this deal pass them by.