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article imageOp-Ed: Dodgers Ethier an alternative option for teams looking at Fowler

By James Poellnitz     Jan 31, 2016 in Sports
The free agent outfield market has progressed slowly this offseason. As a result, many players have been left unsigned and potential trade candidates remain with their respective teams.
One player who has been hurt the most is Dexter Fowler. Fowler is coming off of a strong season with the Chicago Cubs in which he posted career highs in home runs (17), runs (102), walks (84) and games (156). His 20 stolen bases were his highest total since 2009 (27 steals).
The added power makes up for his .250 average which was his lowest total since 2008, his first year in the league. Much of that can be attributed to a slow start as teams should have a pretty good idea of what they have in Fowler. For his career he holds a .363 on base percentage and plays a premium position as a center fielder.
There is no question the reason he has still gone unsigned is the draft pick compensation that comes with signing him. It is what made Yoenis Cespedes so valuable. You would think teams would line up to meet the demands of a player of his caliber and not lose a draft pick, but instead he had to settle for a three-year deal with his former team.
As teams weigh whether Fowler is good enough to lose a draft pick, there are other options. At the top of that list should be Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier.
Ethier came on the scene in 2006 and right away produced posting a .308/.365/.477 line in 126 games as a rookie. In 2009 he posted career highs in home runs (31), RBIs (106), runs (92) walks (72) and games (160) while gaining the reputation of performing in the clutch. Then came the additions of Carl Crawford and Yasiel Puig in 2013 and a loss of playing time for Ethier. In 2014 he posted career lows across the board and fell completely into a reserve role.
Last season however, Ethier bounced back nicely thriving in a platoon role in which he sat against lefties. He slashed /.294/.366/.486, hit 14 home runs in 395 at bats and essentially was the Dodgers' most productive outfielder. Despite his performance, the Dodgers would still love the chance to move him.
He has $35.5 million left on his deal through 2017 and more importantly gains 10-5 rights (10 years in the league and five straight with their current team allows him to block any trade) if not traded before April 21. With Crawford being immovable (due $43.5 million through 2017) and a roster that contains Joc Pederson, Yasiel Puig, Enrique Hernandez and Scott Van Slyke, Ethier is the odd man out.
The Chicago White Sox, who have been rumored to have interest in Fowler, would be a perfect fit for Ethier.
Last season was yet another disappointing year for Avisail Garcia. The once top prospect has not developed into the player the White Sox thought he would be. In 2015 he hit .257/.309/.365 with just 32 of his 142 hits going for extra bases. According to Fangraphs, his .365 slugging percentage ranked 127th among qualified hitters. If they want to be playoff contenders this season, they need more production from right field.
Trades have been the ideal method of improvement for the White Sox this offseason. Even with the loss of multiple prospects in separate deals to acquire Todd Frazier and Brett Lawrie, there are still enough bullets in the chamber to get Ethier. The price on the Dodgers outfielder won't be high and on top of that the team would have to pay part of his salary to facilitate a deal.
Ethier could remain in the same platoon role that brought him success last season and if the White Sox do decide to keep Garcia around, he could strictly hit lefties (.293/.353/.407 vs lefties in 2015). In doing this instead of signing Fowler, the White Sox hold on to their compensatory pick (28th overall) they gained from Jeff Samardzija signing with San Francisco.
Another ideal fit for Ethier would be the Baltimore Orioles. With no proven outfielder on the roster outside of Adam Jones (Hyun-soo Kim an unknown in America), there is certainly a need. Before committing $161 million to Chris Davis, the Orioles reportedly made an offer to Cespedes. Surprisingly, that offer still stood even after resigning Davis.
With no apparent leadoff hitter on the roster, Fowler would be a better fit but the Orioles hold the 14th pick in draft. If they were going to lose that pick signing a free agent, it should have been on a front-line pitcher (Wei-Yin Chen now in Miami) or superstar hitter, not Fowler. Instead, Ethier could slot right in left field and provide additional left-handed pop between right handers Jones and the newly acquired Mark Trumbo.
Other potential fits among contenders for Ethier include the Los Angeles Angels, Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians.
(All statistics are according to Baseball Reference unless listed otherwise)
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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