I have to be honest, I’m not particularly interested in writing about trading one of the Dodger outfielders. We all know the score by now, don’t we? The team has four highly-paid outfielders, which is one too many even if you don’t consider Joc Pederson, except that all four can stay healthy at the same time precisely never. Trade one of them and risk having not enough healthy outfielders and more days where guys like Skip Schumaker & Jerry Hairston are starting; don’t trade one of them, and risk having an expensive, unhappy veteran on the bench.
That being said, it’s going to be a topic of conversation all winter long, so we can’t avoid it. Ken Rosenthal kicks it off today:
That possibility, in fact, already is in the works; the Dodgers, according to major-league sources, are listening on Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford, telling prospective suitors, “If you’re interested in one of them, make us an offer.”
This is presented as news, but it’s not, really. “Team willing to not hang up on someone proposing a trade” isn’t really earth-shattering, and you should always really listen on every player, even if you have no real intention of moving them.
And that’s sort of the problem here. Even if you do want to trade one of them — and by “them” I mean Ethier, Kemp, and Crawford, because Yasiel Puig isn’t going anywhere — their contracts and injury histories make it difficult to expect a solid return. Or as a “rival exec” replied to Rosenthal when asked which one was the most desirable, “none”.
Which is totally fair. I don’t need to remind you how painful Kemp’s 2013 was, nor of the $128m still due him. Crawford’s season was better than we had any right to expect considering just how uncertain he was after two awful years in Boston and Tommy John surgery; he’s also no longer a star, going to turn 33 next year, with $81.5m still coming, and missed time with hamstring injuries. And while Ethier certainly made himself a lot more valuable in the second half after making his extension look so, so bad one year in, he’s still an obviously flawed player who cannot hit lefties, will soon be 32, and has potentially $86.5m remaining if his reasonably attainable 2018 player option vests.
In the right deal, I’d move any of the three — yes, even Kemp, because while the fan in me wants him to be a Dodger forever, the objective observer in me understands that a trade can’t ever be off the table. And all have some amount of value, especially if the Dodgers eat a good deal of the contract, and Ethier seems to be the one most likely to move. (Mets fans and writers are already hypothesizing about it, actually, but Daniel Murphy isn’t that interesting and it’s certainly not like David Wright is coming back, so prepare yourself for mid-level minor leaguers.)
The problem is that for me, “the right deal” includes getting something useful back. It can’t just be a salary dump, especially in Kemp’s case, because I still believe he can be a high-quality player when healthy. But with so much money still due all three of these questionable players, it’s easy for another team to say “screw it, I’ll just get into the Carlos Beltran or Curtis Granderson” sweepstakes, for less risk and without sending back talent. That’s what makes finding “the right deal” difficult or potentially impossible. And that’s what’s going to make a winter of rumors around these three such a long, complicated one, because believe me, we haven’t heard the last of this.