Prior to Howie Kendrick agreeing to re-sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the club was on track to return a team this season that closely resembles the 2015 group. Kendrick’s return further solidifies that notion, with the only change among the infielders coming at shortstop where Corey Seager takes over for Jimmy Rollins.
Whether the same can be said for the outfield may be another story. Taking into account former Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti’s tenure and that of current team president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, Los Angeles hasn’t addressed their surplus of outfielders in recent years.
Whereas the depth caused trouble with an agitated Matt Kemp in 2014, which invariably led to him being traded that winter to the San Diego Padres, the Dodgers heavily leaned on the surplus last season due to injuries.
Los Angeles faces somewhat of a predicament with Andre Ethier as the soon-to-be-34-year-old will become a 10-and-5 player on April 21 and thus earn the right to veto any trade.
Ethier is owed $18 million this season, $17.5 million in 2017, and his contract includes $17.5 million club option in 2018 with a $2.5 million buyout.
He’s coming off a bounce back season in which he batted .294/.366/.486 with 14 home runs, 20 doubles, 53 RBIs, had a .366 wOBA and 137 wRC+ over 142 games while filling in for an injured Yasiel Puig.
The Chicago White Sox were said to have recently kicked the tires on Ethier, with other clubs expressing interest as well. In Chicago’s case, the Dodgers reportedly floated Carl Crawford’s and Ethier’s name after the White Sox called to inquire on Puig.
However, during an interview with Chris Russo on MLB Network’s High Heat, Dodgers general manager refuted the notion that a trade involving Ethier and others, is in the works:
“Andre had a really good year for us last year. Hit almost .300, hit 14 homers, slugged almost .500. Right now, he’s a really important part of our team. As you said, we have a lot of depth in our outfield. We certainly had been open to discussing certain guys and different scenarios earlier in the offseason, but right now we have nothing going on. Andre is a really important part of the team, and we expect him to be here in 2016.”
Amid previous offseason rumors last November, Zaidi said Ethier fit well with the team moving forward. As for the Dodgers’ willingness to listen on calls for Puig, Zaidi reiterated the club’s stance of supporting the 25 year old:
“It’s our job to listen on pretty much any player. But right now, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where we move on from Yasiel and we’re a better team. We’ve had a lot of conversations, and to a man everyone knows when he’s going well he is an impact player and takes the team to another level. Our focus this entire offseason has been about getting him in a position to have as good of a 2016 as he can, getting him in the right physical state, right mental state and developing a relationship with our new manager Dave Roberts. Making sure there is a level of trust there that can bring out the best in him.”
Zaidi’s comments fall in line with a previous account that had the Dodgers informing teams Puig is not available. While there has been reported interest from clubs in trading for Puig this offseason, Friedman has regularly stated his belief the Dodgers are in a better position to succeed with their dynamic outfielder in the lineup.
At Friedman’s instruction, Puig has spent the offseason trimming down under the theory a smaller frame will aid in his avoiding the hamstring injuries that plagued him throughout last season.