The Los Angeles Dodgers have four great outfielders heading into the 2014 season which means that playing time will be at a premium for one of those players.
Andre Ethier should not be that guy.
Yes, Ethier had a down year in 2013, but that shouldn’t discourage the Dodgers’ coaching staff or fanbase. What makes Ethier a valuable everyday player is his ability to change a game with one swing of the bat. I’m sure Dodger fans can remember the plethora of walk-off hits Ethier has given them over the years. A player as clutch as that simply cannot be riding the pine.
Another valuable tool Ethier brings to the club is his ability to play multiple outfield positions. Yasiel Puig failed in center field last year and Carl Crawford doesn’t have the arm to play anywhere but left field. The only two men on the Dodgers who have the ability to play all three outfield positions are Ethier and Matt Kemp. The Dodgers would be at a disadvantage without the flexibility that Ethier provides them.
Ethier would also fail to add much to the Dodgers’ bench. If Ethier were to come off the bench, he would only be used in situations where a power bat is needed and a lefty is not on the mound. To relegate a player like Ethier to that role is unacceptable. Crawford, on the other hand, would be able to provide pop and speed off of the bench. Simply put, the Dodgers would be better off with Crawford on the bench due to his sizable speed advantage over everyone not named Dee Gordon.
If the Dodgers are serious about contending for a championship this year, they need to start Andre Ethier everyday. If they don’t, they will likely have to trade Ethier away and end up with a vastly depleted bench.
Let’s hope for the sake of the team that the Dodgers do regularly start Ethier this season.