A deal featuring Ellsbury and Ethier makes sense for Red Sox and Dodgers

By Jeff Louderback

Jacoby Ellsbury will remain with the Red Sox in 2013, even though he will likely explore free agency when the season ends, Boston general manager Ben Cherington has said.

If Ellsbury does spend 2013 patrolling center field for the Red Sox, it will benefit the lineup. Chances are, he will have an explosive season since he is about to enter free agency for the first time. Boston can make him a qualifying offer next offseason (which he would undoubtedly decline) and accept the draft pick compensation when he signs elsewhere.

The alternative is trading Ellsbury this offseason, especially to a team that has the resources to sign him to a long-term deal. Enter, once again as a trade partner, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Dodgers’ outfield is currently composed of Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier. According to media reports, though, the club might trade Ethier and pursue a center fielder like free agent Michael Bourn. Another media report indicated that two American League teams have contacted the Dodgers about acquiring Ethier. One of those clubs could be the Red Sox.

Ethier, who turns 31 in April, is a close friend of Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. They were teammates at Arizona State University. That alone, of course, would not warrant bringing Ethier to Boston. His presence as a run-producing left-handed bat would, though.

Regarded as an average defensive right fielder, Ethier has a career .290 batting average, a .476 slugging percentage and a .838 OPS. In 2012, he posted numbers that include .284/.460/.812 to accompany 20 home runs and 89 RBI.

As long as they could sign him to a long-term contract, Ellsbury would likely have appeal to the Dodgers. Since the club is also searching for a left-handed reliever, perhaps the Red Sox can include Andrew Miller or Craig Breslow.

In a deal with Ethier, Boston could ask the Dodgers to send money to help pay for the outfielder’s remaining contract, which runs through 2017 with a vesting option of $17.5 million and a $2.5 million buyout for 2018. Ethier is due to receive $13.5 million in 2013, $15.5 million in 2014, $18 million in 2015 and 2016 and $17.5 million in 2017.

This type of trade would seemingly contradict Cherington’s preference to refrain from adding players who have long-term contracts, but Ellsbury will be leaving via free agency after 2013 and the club has Shane Victorino who can play center field until top prospect Jackie Bradley is ready.

Even if the pending free agent deal for Mike Napoli is not finalized, the Red Sox have a lineup that leans too right-handed. Adding Ethier would balance the lineup, and give the Red Sox a run producing bat and a player who is still in his prime.

The Red Sox still have the payroll flexibility to add Ethier’s salary, especially since they would be unloading Ellsbury and a left-handed reliever, which would free a spot on the 40-man roster as well.

If the Sox complete the deal for Napoli, and add Ethier, the 2013 lineup would look something like this:

  1. Shane Victorino, CF
  2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
  3. David Ortiz, DH
  4. Mike Napoli, 1B
  5. Andre Ethier, RF
  6. Will Middlebrooks, 3B
  7. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
  8. Jonny Gomes, LF
  9. Stephen Drew, SS

There would be variation, of course. Against right-handers, Gomes will likely sit in favor of someone like Ryan Kalish or Daniel Nava.  David Ross will probably see extensive time behind the plate when opposing left-handers are on the mound since Saltalamacchia hits better from the left side. Boston will also probably acquire a left-handed hitter who can play first base and another position. Garrett Jones of the Pirates, perhaps?

3 Responses to “ A deal featuring Ellsbury and Ethier makes sense for Red Sox and Dodgers ”

  1. I wrote a little piece on bosoxinjection about potential left-handed platoon partners for Gomes on the FA market. I limited the list to Berkman and Damon.

  2. This really isn’t an awe-inspiring potential move, and I personally think the team would be heading in the wrong direction. Why trade Ellsbury for Ethier, when the Sox can keep Ellsbury for this year and sign Nick Swisher, who is more or less identical to Ethier? How would this work you ask? Well, first off all, Gomes was a questionable/decent signing. 5 million is a little much for a platoon player. With that being said, Swisher could play in left and Gomes would be a, “super substitute” off the bench. See how the team performs this year, and let Ellsbury walk at the end of the season to replace him with Bradley Jr.

    The potential lineup would look something like this:
    Ellsbury CF
    Pedroia 2B
    Ortiz DH
    Middlebrooks 3B
    Swisher LF
    Napoli 1B
    Drew SS
    Saltalamacchia C
    Victorino RF

    This lineup appears to be right there with the Yankees and very, very close to Detroit, Toronto, and Los Angeles.In addition, and I will give Cherington some credit here, the lineup is versatile because guys can play so many different positions. For example, imagine that Ellsbury were to go on the disabled list. Victorino would move to centerfield, Swisher would shift from leftfield to rightfield, and Gomes would sub in at Left. If Victorino got hurt, put Swisher in Right, Gomes in left. If Napoli were to be injured, Gomes can play at first. If Salty is hurt, move Napoli to catcher and Gomes to first…so on and so forth. A versatile team indeed.

    With the American league being so competitive, even a lineup as productive as this one does not guarantee a playoff berth. Nothing is a given, hence, why the actual baseball games are played. I do think this team would have a shot to be dangerous, but they are in dire need of one more starting pitcher. Doubront just cannot be trusted, and management has to get serious if they think Morales is the answer. I have always liked Gavin Floyd, but I had an epiphany earlier about another trade target: Mike Minor of the Atlanta Braves. He is a 24 year old lefty who is under team control for next 4, maybe 5 years. A trade of Iglesias and Lavarnway could be enticing to Atlanta. This would allow the Braves to move Andrelton Simmons to left-field and start Iglesias at short. Lavarnway would be insurance in case the Braves fail to re-sign Brian McCann next off season.

  3. To me the deal makes no sense. The assumption is Ellsbury will return to glory but this member of that jury will wait until all the evidence surfaces.

    Ethier has a long term deal at serious money and I thought that is what the Red Sox just shipped out to LA? Why go down that road again?

    From the LA perspective they have nothing to gain. Money appears no issue. If they covet Ellsbury just wait a year to see if his numbers return and then sign him.

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