Red Sox trade rumors: Andre Ethier a potential target

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

It might not feel like the Sox should bother trading right now, but that could change in a hurry.

The Red Sox need help if they're going to get back into this thing in 2014. Some of that help might come this summer in the form of Andre Ethieraccording to the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo. While both the Dodgers' outfielder and the Sox are struggling at present, it's easy to see a situation where a move like this would make sense for Boston.

If the Red Sox shake off their current losing streak and get back to playing the way they were prior to everything around them burning down, then they should remain in the hunt for a playoff spot in the American League. Granted, they essentially would have already used up their terrible stretch for the year, so no other major slump could happen, but even with the losing streak the Sox are just six games back of a Wild Card spot, and it's not even June yet. Fans' current (understandable) feelings about the team are in worse shape than the Sox' actual place in the standings: they very well could be in a position to add help at the deadline and have it make sense.

As for Ethier, he's batting .271/.333/.368 for an OPS+ of 99 (Dodgers Stadium leans pitcher-friendly), far off from his usual production: he owns a 122 OPS+ over the last three full seasons, and also for his career. If he's also returned to form before the trade deadline, there's little reason to worry about the rest of his season, given his track record. The Red Sox can also easily afford Ethier, who has an average annual value of $17 million, as even with the Stephen Drew signing they are $23 million under the luxury tax right now per Cafardo. [Note: I have no idea where he's getting this figure, actually. I'm positive the Sox have less room than that, but future room is easy (and natural) enough to make.]

Ethier is also under contract for three more years, and has a club/vesting option for 2018 based on plate appearances, so it wouldn't be a trade just for the present. With the Dodgers already having Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig, and Carl Crawford, they're potentially looking to deal an outfielder, and the one making $17 million per season is the easiest to move given both the length and value of his deal. Ethier does have a platoon split, but it's in the right direction, because he can absolutely mash right-handed pitchers, who throw roughly 75 percent of all innings: Ethier is a career .308/.387/.514 hitter against righties.

Do the Sox need Ethier in the future, too? They have Daniel Nava, who isn't as good of a defender (and hasn't been as good of a hitter for anywhere near as long), and Shane Victorino is a free agent after 2015. The combination of rookie Jackie Bradley Jr. and prospect Mookie Betts only accounts for two-thirds of an outfield, with the rest of Boston's relevant outfield pieces well behind this pair in their own development: Garin Cecchini is probably the next-in-line, but all of his outfield potential is a hypothetical, and it's not as if that's the only place he could end up.

What it comes down to is Ethier's price tag. If the Dodgers eat a significant chunk of the remaining deal, the cost in prospects would go up, but Boston would save some money against the luxury tax. If the Sox were willing to pay every dime remaining on the deal -- and there would be about $60 million left without getting into the option -- maybe they can do this without giving up, relatively, all that much in the way of prospects. Maybe this ends up being the deal that lets the Sox unload Will Middlebrooks so he can get a chance to play every day somewhere, or lets them move someone like Anthony Ranaudo, who might have a better shot of succeeding as a starter in the NL. It's tough to tell at this juncture, and with the interest in moving Ethier potentially being one-sided, but it's a conversation worth having.

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