The Los Angeles Dodgers have had a fun time the last three years figuring out their outfield.
Ever since a blockbuster trade that landed an expensive injury prone Carl Crawford in 2012, and the call up of a streaky Yasiel Puig in 2013, the Dodgers have often been faced at times with having four every day healthy outfielders and only three spots to place them in.
Injuries have helped the situation, and the Dodgers partially alleviated the issue on their own by trading Matt Kemp in the offseason for Yasmani Grandal. This ultimately gave rookie Joc Pederson the center field spot, but still kept left field and right field as revolving doors on the lineup card.
In the current season, Yasiel Puig has spent time on the DL and has gone through various slumps when healthy, and Carl Crawford has been injured most of the season. As a result Andre Ethier has been able to start more often.
However with Carl Crawford likely returning soon, and Yasiel Puig back for the most part (his body is there but his head isn’t always), it’s time that the Dodgers make a decision that sticks: make Andre Ethier the permanent left fielder.
Even though Ethier has been batting mediocre the last month, as have the Dodgers in general, he is on pace to bat close to .300 by the all-star game, and still has some power with nine home runs. If he keeps it up, he can easily be at 20 home runs by the end the year.
It is definitely a sign that the Andre Ethier of old is still around. That is, if Ethier can get an everyday spot in the lineup.
Baseball is a game that requires the player to be in “the zone” in order to remain consistently productive. If a player isn’t able to get consistent playing time, how is he supposed to get in the zone? Like a pitcher needs to be back on the mound as soon as possible while pitching a perfect game, a good hitter needs three to four at bats every day to keep his rhythm going.
When Yasiel Puig was called up in 2013, it made sense to keep his bat in the lineup at right field, to have a MVP caliber Matt Kemp commanding center field, and to have the speed and power of a hopefully healthy Carl Crawford in left field. However, Kemp is gone now along with his days of being an MVP caliber player, and the only thing that is consistent about Carl Crawford is injury.
It’s commonly preached that one should never lose his job to injury, but this may be the time that it’s justified. The most games in a season that Carl Crawford has played in his time with the Dodgers was 116 in 2013. With Andre Ethier having the better than expected year he is having, the Dodgers shouldn’t mess up his rhythm and should keep him in left field. Crawford can relegate to pinch hitting and DHing in AL road games, and the Dodgers can have a consistent and healthy left fielder in Andre Ethier. Yasiel Puig will also benefit, by not having to worry about getting benched for Ethier when he’s in a minor slump.
If the Dodgers can’t provide this, and insist on putting non outfielders like Kike Hernandez and Alex Guerrero in left field, or want to make Scott Van Slyke an everyday player, then they should at least try to work a trade where they can get some help in areas that they need.
After all, Ethier is due nearly $49 million more through 2017, and paying a healthy everyday player to sit on the bench never helps anyone.