An outfield trio of Jake Marisnick, Dexter Fowler, and George Springer might work. Aside from them, the Houston Astros certainly have a mix of 4th and 5th outfielders vying for roles on the MLB club. I believe that this is the offseason to start making moves towards being a serious contender. No, not Matt Kemp. And I doubt Yasiel Puig will be dealt. I think that acquiring Andre Ethier, from the Dodgers outfield surplus, could yield high rewards and dividends.
Some people may be quick to criticize his 2014 downturn to aging. While that could be true, I believe that the Dodgers surplus of outfielders had a significant mental impact on Ethier. And my theory is that the uncertainty of if he would be in the starting lineup, I think that got to him.
"“Which is just fine with Ethier, who played the good soldier last season and did not complain about his bench role. This season, however, he expects to play.‘It didn’t work,’ Ethier said. ‘Let’s do something different. That’s the way I look at it. And I think a lot of people probably look at it that way, too.’ ” – Ethier via Steve Dilbeck from the Los Angeles Times"
It is certain that he had the worst season of his career. A .249 batting average with just 4 home runs, 17 doubles and an OPS+ below 100. After 6 straight seasons of playing 139 games, Ethier played just 130 in 2014. And of those — only 78 starts. That’s significantly less starts (21 to be exact) than in his rookie campaign way back in the 2006 season. 2014 was the first time in his career that he had not reached double digits in home runs.
The truth is that Ethier would be a tremendous upgrade to the 2015 Astros lineup. And he will likely enjoy positive regression from having a starting gig. Baseball-reference has a 162 game average: 18 home runs, 80 RBI, and a slash line of .285/.359/.762. Since it’s unlikely that Ethier will play every day (he played in 160 during his 6th place MVP season in 2006), we cannot expect these numbers. But I am fairly certain that this career average will be closer to reality than a repeat of his 2014 season.
A possible benefit of Ethier in Houston would be his influence on the younger hitters. In particular a fellow left-handed hitter: Jon Singleton. One of the issues that the Astros have to improve upon as a team in 2015 is their strikeout rate. Maybe a team full of powerful guys who strike out 25% of the time can get the job done. That’s operating under an assumption that certain players are able to significantly cut down. We’re talking about a reductions of:
- 6.8% for Chris Carter (31.8 – 25)
- 4.5% for Jason Castro (29.5 – 25)
- a staggering 12.0% for Singleton (37.0- 25)
I really hate to be a pessimist here but I simply cannot see all three of these guys improving to the 25% K mark. And even if they were to do so, I expect the 19.4% AL K Rate to stay roughly the same during the 2015 season. I know that strikeout rate is not the sole determinate factor in a teams’ success; every aspect of the game is involved in the equation.
It is time that the Astros start supplementing their roster with veterans as well as balancing contact hitters and power hitters. The Giants and Royals made the playoffs ranked 17th and 30th, respectively, in terms of home run numbers. But they did what mattered most: score more runs than their opponents. Everyone is in love with the power game. I, however, prefer teams that win.
Andre Ethier may not provide the star factor that most fans desire. But it is undeniable that his consistency would be welcomed in Houston. With Fowler being a free agent in 2016, bringing Ethier to town would give the Astros two solid veteran outfielders with a contingency plan if Fowler does decide to go elsewhere in free agency.