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Dodgers trade rumors: Moving Andre Ethier or Carl Crawford seems obvious, necessary

Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

With the general manager meetings beginning today in Phoenix, the rumor mill is beginning to crank up to full speed. The latest rumor, that the Dodgers are aggressively trying to move one of their high-priced outfielders, is a good opportunity in remembering the lessons of following the hot stove season.

Both Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports and Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that the Dodgers are trying to trade one of Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier or Matt Kemp, with Rosenthal calling moving an outfielder one of the club's top offseason priorities and Heyman noting that rival executives believe the Dodgers will trade one, and possibly two outfielders this winter.

The thing is, this is obvious. Of course the Dodgers are trying to trade an outfielder. This would have been the case had Ned Colletti remained the general manager as well.

I don't mean to denigrate the reporting of Rosenthal nor Heyman, two of the most connected reporters in the sport. Both stories have actual news value to some extent, that they are both hearing through sources that the Dodgers have been aggressive trying to make a deal. But beyond that, there isn't much there there.

Rosenthal didn't even write the article; it was just pieced together by someone at Fox Sports with three of Rosenthal's tweets embedded.

Juggling the four outfielders for three spots was some of manager Don Mattingly's finest work in 2014, and Ethier especially is to be commended for accepting a bench role for the final two months as the club finally settled in on a regular set lineup for the most part.

But convincing Ethier to sit for two months on a first-place team is one thing. Convincing him to be on the bench for good, with three years remaining on his contract, is a much tougher sell, one that the Dodgers front office won't force Mattingly to make, if they can help it at all.

Yasiel Puig is understandably off the table. At four years, $24 million left on his contract plus under team control through 2019, Puig is one of the best values in baseball, even if that number could go up if and when Puig decides instead to opt into salary arbitration (he could be eligible, maybe, after 2015 as a Super Two).

At issue of course is how much money the Dodgers would have to eat in a trade for one of the other three.

  • Kemp is due $107 million over five years
  • Crawford is due $62.25 million over three years
  • Ethier is guaranteed $56 million over three years, with vesting club option for 2018 that could make it $71 million over four years.

The Dodgers would rather not move Kemp, one of the best hitters in baseball in the second half in 2014 and further and further removed from two offseasons of surgeries. But with that contract it's understandable the team would listen, and since Kemp would fetch the highest return of the three on the block, his name will be involved.

Ethier or Crawford would be the preferred outfielders to be traded, as noted by both Rosenthal and Heyman. These are things we already knew. But it sounds like in an offseason with none of these four outfielders needing surgeries, and the Dodgers not wanting to deal with a full season of juggling playing time, the wheels are being greased for a departure.

Another lesson in hot stove following: there are varying levels of interest. Rosenthal doesn't even mention other teams in his piece, while Heyman refers to preliminary talks with the Rangers about Crawford for shortstop Elvis Andrus - due $118 million over the next eight years - that went nowhere.

The Andrus rumor made a small ripple last week on Twitter - spread by local NBC sports anchor and KFWB 980 radio host Fred Roggin of all people - but there was really nothing there.

Lots of teams talk to each other about lots of things. Just because two teams talk doesn't mean a deal is imminent.

But at least Roggin had the right idea for the framework of a trade. If the Dodgers move Ethier and Crawford, look for them to possibly take on a bad contract in return, at a position of need. Mark Buehrle has one year, $19 million left on his deal in Toronto. John Danks has two years and $28.5 million left with the White Sox. Edwin Jackson is due $22 million over two years with the Cubs. Ricky Nolasco is guaranteed $37 million over the next three years in Minnesota.

I'm not saying the Dodgers should or will trade for any of those pitchers, but we are essentially in sunk cost territory with the extra outfield contracts, and trying a pitcher on a change-of-scenery deal is likely better than having a sulking extra outfielder in the clubhouse.