Andre Ethier #16 of the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrates with Dee Gordon #9, Elian Herrera #37, and Tony Gwynn #10 after hitting a grand slam against the Seattle Mariners during an interleague game at Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Regarding Andre Ethier's new five-year, $85-million contract extension, I'll just say that this photo alone makes him worth at least $85 million. Put a floppy little cap on him, and you'd have Beaver Cleaver, circa 1959. Such a cute fella!
Still, $85 million does seem like a lot of money for a player who, one must admit, has never exactly been a household name except in households that bleed blue.
But with teams increasingly signing players to long-term contracts before they are eligible for free agency, All-Star-caliber outfielders who are out of contract frequently land jaw-dropping paydays. Over the last two off-seasons, Carl Crawford signed with the Boston Red Sox for seven years and $142 million, Jayson Werth with the Washington Nationals for seven years and $126 million and Matt Holliday with the St. Louis Cardinals for seven years and $120 million.
"That's why we entered into it," General Manager Ned Colletti said.
Wait a minute ... the Dodgers used those contracts as guidance? Rather than as cautionary tales?
Crawford's contract has been a disaster. Werth's has been a mini-disaster. Holliday's has looked good, but his numbers are down this year and 2016 (the last season of his deal) is still a long ways off.
Two months ago, Ethier turned 30. Players in their 30s get worse.
Ethier's agent, Nez Balelo, didn't push him toward free agency.
"You have to listen to the client," Balelo said. "It's his job, it's his future. We weighed out all the options. After weighing all the options, he still made the decision this was the right place to be."
Balelo wouldn't speculate how much more money Ethier could have made on the open market.
"He's comfortable here," Balelo said. "He's comfortable in the community, he's comfortable with his teammates. You heard him say this is the best chemistry he's had in the clubhouse in the last seven years. You don't just walk away from that because you're seeking a better contract that you don't know is out there. Being comfortable and being happy is a huge part of life."
There it is. More money on the open market? Maybe a little more money was out there, but maybe not. Probably not. Matt Kemp's 27, and just got $20 million per season. Was Ethier, 30 and not the hitter or fielder Kemp is, going to get more than $17 million on the open market?
Andre Ethier seems like a genuine-enough sort, and it's always refreshing when homegrown players want to stick with the team that developed them; it seems the demise of the one-team-in-his-career baseball star has been greatly exaggerated.
But let's not be ridiculous about this. Andre Ethier didn't give the Dodgers a hometown discount because he loves them. The Dodgers overpaid for Andre Ethier because they love him.