Rays Eye Ethier

It was reported by multiple sources today that the Tampa Bay Rays are interested in making a trade for young, left handed hitting, outfielder, Andre Ethier. There was even a full page write-up in the St. Petersburg Times suggesting the Rays may be willing to part with young pitching in order to attain him. This is what I’m talking about! An Andre Ethier trade makes a lot of sense in many regards. First of all, an Ethier trade would signal that we intend to keep superstar in the making, Matt Kemp (which is a no-brainer in my opinion, see previous blog). Secondly, we can expect to get far more in return in a trade for Ethier than we could ever hope to get back trading Juan Pierre and his albatross of a contract. Dodger stadium is known as a pitcher’s park and Dodger pitching coaches have enjoyed quite a bit of success in recent years. A young pitcher would be a great option for the Dodgers. #1. His contract wouldn’t bog down the current payroll and would allow for more roster flexibility. #2. A Young pitcher would be under the club’s control for a number of years as opposed to trading for a pitcher like Erik Bedard who is only a year or two away from free agency. The Rays are stocked to the brim with young pitching prospects, some of the highest rated in the game. The St. Petersburg Times suggests that we may trade Ethier for a relief pitcher like Al Reyes or Dan Wheeler but that’s wishful thinking on their part. It would take far more than that to land a young, consistent hitter like Ethier. Let’s break down the options.
Scott Kazmir is probably the Ray’s pitcher that first comes to your mind but in order to trade a bona-fide star like Kazmir, the Rays would likely demand a package of players similar to the requests that the Twins are making for Santana, which would probably place Kazmir well outside of our price range (in terms of talent). He’s a great young power pitcher but is also an injury risk due to his size and delivery. He’s dealt with left shoulder injuries during the past and being that he is a left-handed pitcher, it’s a major red flag. However, he is young enough to correct whatever problems are creating these injuries. Nonetheless, Kazmir would just be too expensive and is out of Andre Ethier-range.

James Shields is a name that may be a bit more realistic. Shields is a 25 year old strikeout pitcher from Newhall, CA and had a breakout season last year. He’s always been ranked among the Ray’s top pitching prospects and finally made good on his potential. He threw 215 innings last season, struckout 184 batters and posted a 3.85 ERA with a 1.11 WHIP, which is all-star caliber numbers, especially for a young pitcher in the AL East who has to face the monster lineups of the Yankees and Red Sox just about every other series. Shields would be a great fit for the Dodgers who need another pitcher or two for their rotation. You can only imagine the kinds of numbers he’d put up in a pitcher’s park like Dodger Stadium. A Shields for Ethier trade is probably about the best we can hope for but may be just as unlikely as Kazmir in the long run. It’s hard to gauge what kind of value the Rays have placed on Shields but one can only imagine that the price will be steep.

The next pitcher on our list is a top rated lefty prospect out of Vanderbilt University named David Price. Many scouts have said that Price may be the best pitcher to come out of college since Mark Prior. In college Price was accustomed to putting up gaudy numbers like a 1.92 ERA and a 0.83 WHIP in ’06. He’s a big guy, 6 foot 5 and 215 lbs but has yet to pitch in a professional game. I’m not sure what the rules are concerning recent draft picks but if we were to make a trade for Price, he’d likely be listed as a “player to be named later”.

Jacob McGee is another young, lefty power pitcher who like Price, has 6+ years of service time remaining on his contract, making him an attractive option for any team. McGee had great success in Single A ball at Vero Beach posting a 2.93 ERA, a 1.07 WHIP and striking out 11.19 batters per 9 innings pitched. Although Price and McGee wouldn’t make an impact on the big league club for at least another year or two, it would give the Dodgers options. Trading for either top-flight prospect would give the Dodgers an extra chip to trade if they so choose. Pitching is at a premium in today’s game and either pitcher could net a much bigger fish if packaged in the right deal.

Pitchers that are a little closer to the majors include the behemoth, 6 foot 9 inch, 260 lbs, Jeff Niemann, who’s yet another power arm, this time from the right side. Niemann has actually gotten better as he’s progressed thru the minors which is a very good sign but struggled a bit last year at the AAA level. However, he possesses a nice K/BB ratio and projects as a solid middle-of-the-rotation guy in time.

Other options include names like Jason Hammel, Andy Sonnanstine, Mitch Talbot and JP Howell. All of which have been highly ranked at one point or another. Each would be attainable for a player of Ethier’s caliber. But there are other options that do not include pitchers…

Possibly the top ranked prospect in the Rays system is a young 3B named Evan Longoria. Longoria is another CA native who hails from the city of Downey and was a star player at Long Beach State University. Scouts absolutely love this guy and many think he’ll be the Rays everyday 3B as early as next season. The Rays are probably unlikely to even entertain trade thoughts concerning Longoria but could be enticed by a package that includes players such as OF Andre Ethier, 2B prospect Tony Abreu, SS prospect Chin-Lung Hu or fellow 3B prospect Andy LaRoche. Longoria may be a bit pricey but could be the Dodgers 3B for the next decade. He would be under the club’s control for 6+ years and would provide payroll flexibility for a number of years.

Another young hitter to pay attention to is SS prospect Reid Brignac. At one point, Brignac was more highly ranked than Longoria but his stock has dropped a bit since then. He’s a bit small for his size, standing at 6 foot 3 yet only weighing 170 lbs but is young and should start filling out that massive frame in time. Scouts compare him to a certain Hall of Fame SS named Cal Ripken Jr. due to his tall-stature and power potential. He’s capable of hitting over 20 HRs at the big league level and that number will only grow with time. He needs to display better plate discipline (most young hitters do) and learn to take more walks. His OBP seems to go up and down from year to year. One year he posts a .388 OBP and then a .328 the next season. Obviously he needs to learn how to be consistent at the plate. Even so, if the Dodgers were to deal for him he’d instantly become the 2B or SS of the future due to his power potential. He’s not as good of a fielder as Dodger’s SS prospect Chin-Lung Hu but is a much better hitter which is what the Dodger’s need at this point.

Of course, the Rays have more to offer than developing prospects. Major league ready players such as 3B Akinori Iwamura, CF Rocco Baldelli, 1B Carlos Pena, OF/DH Jonny Gomes, RP Al Reyes and former Dodger pitching prospect Edwin Jackson could all be made available as well. However, the Dodgers are unlikely to bring in another OF and are covered at 1B with the emergence of James Loney. Al Reyes wouldn’t be enough for Ethier which could leave us with light-hitting Japanese standout Akinori Iwamura. It’s unlikely that Iwamura would be a match for the Dodgers but stranger things have happened. Point is, the Rays can present the Dodgers with many different young trade options which is what you want in a trading partner. If the Dodgers do decide to part with Ethier, the Tampa Bay Rays could definitely make it worth their while.