According to Baseball-Reference similarity scores, here are the 10 most comparable players to Andre Ethier through age 29:
1. Dmitri Young
2. Richie Zisk
3. Rondell White
4. Jacque Jones
5. Aubrey Huff
6. Bobby Higginson
7. Corey Hart
8. Ellis Valentine
9. Jim Edmonds
10. Tony Oliva
Talk about a scary list. I’m not saying it’s worth putting much weight into similarity scores like this, but… yikes. Of course, the Dodgers just gave Ethier a five-year, $85 million contract with what apparently is a pretty easy vesting option for 2018. The five guaranteed years will cover Ethier’s age 31-35 seasons.
For the record, of the eight retired players here, just one hit 100 homers after age 31. That was Edmonds, a late bloomer who hit 230. Huff may get there — he has 86 the last five years — but he’s certainly not someone Dodgers fans want to see Ethier compared to.
The four most similar players to Ethier averaged a total of 53 homers and 204 RBI in their careers from age 31 onwards. The injury-prone White was the most successful of the bunch, and he averaged 13 homers and 53 RBI per season in his final five years.
Of course, I think Ethier will do better than that. But none of these other guys figured to fall off the map like they did, either. I do expect that come 2017, the Dodgers are going to be dreading Ethier’s $17.5 million vesting option. It’ll be much like Bobby Abreu’s $9 million vesting option that kept him with the Angels over the winter; the team won’t want it, but there may be no way to avoid it.
In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.
Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.
In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.
In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.
Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.
Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.
The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.
MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.
Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.
“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”
Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.
MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.
It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.