Off Base
Ethier for Pence?

July 22, 2011, 4:35 p.m. Just because it’s not on the radar, and just because it’s not necessarily a match made in heaven, doesn’t mean it’s not a match, and a damn good one. Perhaps a bit too creative for Ned Colletti, but he reads this blog religiously (right?), so why don’t we go right ahead and pray for the deal to get done.

Here’s my public pronouncement, for the participants and their respective cities to ponder: Andre Ethier for Hunter Pence, straight-up.

Ethier is a 29-year-old right fielder, 6′ 2″ and 205, bats left, throws left, in his sixth big league season, and a free agent after 2012. You know all about him, his real star quality, and perhaps a couple of warts. Pence is a 28-year-old right fielder, 6′ 4″ and 220, bats right, throws right, in his fifth year, and a free agent after 2012.

Pence’s lifetime line is .291, with 103 home runs, 376 RBIs, a .339 on base percentage and an .821 OPS. Ethier stands at .292, with 107 homers, 428 RBIs, .364 and .849.

Houston loves Pence, but there are financial considerations which make a trade possible, if not likely, and soon. Los Angeles loves Ethier, but he’s a tad testy about a few things, none the least of which is his next contract, and a trade, while less talked about, just might happen.

Depending on whom you believe, Pence is “not going to be moved” (Mike Silverman, the Boston Herald), “will move” (Buster Olney, or “the Astros’ asking price on Hunter Pence has been so prohibitive that competing teams believe he will stay in Houston.” (Jon Heyman, A fine consensus, if ever there was one.

While most of the trade discussion going on now, and generally around this time of year, takes place between clubs in a pennant race with those who aren’t, there are exceptions to the rule. And the Dodgers need bodies for 2012, and happy ones, if at all possible. I’m not so sure Ethier qualifies on that last point.

Unlike Dodger Stadium, Houston’s Minute Maid is a hitter’s ballpark, very much so, and Pence’s numbers might dip in Los Angeles to some degree, with Ethier’s going the opposite way. Pence is a great hitter, however, and I wouldn’t hesitate for a second if I were Colletti, based solely on park differentials. But numbers are numbers, and Ethier is the more prominent player, who would bring more in return were Houston to flip him to a contender, possibly Boston, either immediately or during the offseason. They’d make out great.

The Dodgers would need to re-sign Pence, of course, but they’d have a good 16-month competitor-free window in which to do so. Plus, Pence is committed for 2012 at around $6 million, whereas Ethier could go as high as $10 mil via arbitration next year; not a problem for a big market club, one way or the other.

Ethier could use a little world shaking, and would benefit from new surroundings, especially if he’s traded a second time by the Astros. Think Mike Piazza, L.A. to Florida to the Mets. The Dodgers would get a wonderful player on the rise, for less money, and the chance to pair Pence (who hits lefties, by the way) with Matt Kemp for years to come.

It’s win-win all the way around. An Ethier-for-Pence straight trade is a blockbuster waiting to happen. Even more so if you make it a three-way. I say let’s go for it.



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