Four Risk/Reward Free Agents for the Red Sox
By Rick McNair
When the 2018 season starts up a birthday celebrated will take place in April as Andre Ethier will be 36-years-old. The chances of Ethier having a birthday cake in a major league clubhouse are – and I am being generous – about in the 50/50 range. A fourth outfield and bat off the bench possibility.
Ethier had an option and the Dodgers to the surprise of no one chose to decline to pay Ethier $17.5 Million to roost on the bench or the disabled list. In the last two seasons, Ethier has appeared in a total of just 38 MLB games and was on the end run of a five-year $85 Million deal.
Spring training of 2016 and 2017 simply destroyed both seasons for the left-handed hitter. In 2016 it was a fractured tibia and in 2017 a herniated disc. At an advanced baseball age, this is not a sign that would instill any great confidence in signing. Is Ethier worth a look?
My first reaction when I see Ethier is the Grady Sizemore fiasco of 2014. A talented outfielder whose career was crushed by injuries. Ethier is most certainly talented, but that was a few years in the rear-view mirror for the lifetime .285 hitter. If you want power, then Ethier has that with seven seasons of 30+ doubles and four seasons of 20+ home runs.
What must be questioned is defense. Ethier once won a Gold Glove for right field in 2011, but the 7.5 UZR/150 is certainly not in Mookie Betts range. For his career in RF Ethier is -5.6 UZR/150. For his two-other outfield slots, the UZR is also in the negative range. What the Red Sox do have is versatility in the outfield as all three outfielders can play in the middle. Chris Young certainly was no defensive wizard in 2017.
You get Ethier for his bat. Late inning punch off the bench, occasional DH and to plug an outfield hole if someone goes down for a few weeks. The classic description that was supposed to be Young’s forte in 2017 and was not. The issue is if that punch is still there or is Ethier swinging a feather duster.