In a complicated outfield picture that encompassed the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 2014 season, Andre Ethier fell out of favor once the dust finally settled.
Carl Crawford started regularly in left field, and Yasiel Puig was moved to center so that Matt Kemp could be appeased by starting in right field.
To Kemp’s credit, he did produce once satisfied with the outfield alignment that also coincided with regular playing time.
However for Ethier, it resulted in a career-worst .249/.322/.370 batting line, and in home runs (four) and RBIs (42).
Ethier’s 130 games played were the lowest total since his rookie season in 2006 when he appeared in 126 games. As the regular season hit the home stretch, the veteran outfielder called the year his most humbling season.
By December of 2014, Ethier said his desire was to start with the Dodgers, or another club, in 2015. He didn’t back off that stance when Spring Training began and supported it with his play.
With the 33 year old coming off a career season, Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi said Ethier factors into the club’s future plans, according to Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times:
#Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi on Andre Ethier: "Andre had a big year for us and he fits very well on our team going forward."
— Dylan Hernandez (@dylanohernandez) November 11, 2015
Ethier’s importance and value to the Dodgers last season grew immensely as Yasiel Puig spent the majority of the year on the disabled list due to left and right hamstring strains.
Of the 142 games Ethier played in, more than half in right field as Puig’s replacement. Ethier finished the season batting .294/.366/.486 with 14 home runs, 20 doubles, 53 RBIs, a .366 wOBA and 137 wRC+.
Perhaps equally as impressive, the veteran outfielder led the Dodgers with seven triples, four more than second-place Jimmy Rollins. For as great of a season as Ethier had, his age lends to the expectation of some regression to the mean.
He’s owed $18 million next season and $17.5 million in 2017. Ethier’s contract includes a $17.5 million club option in 2018 with a $2.5 million buyout.
On April 21, Ethier will reach 10 full years of Major-League service time, with the last five seasons spent with the Dodgers. Thus, he’ll become a 10-and-5 player and hold the right to refuse any trade.
Of course, while Zaidi gave Ethier a vote of confidence, he notoriously said last December the club was not shopping Dee Gordon. The All-Star second baseman was included in a trade with the Miami Marlins the following day.