Andre Ethier picked a good year to start putting up career-best numbers. According Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, Ethier and the LA Dodgers are nearing an agreement on a five-year, $85 million extension that would keep the All-Star outfielder in Dodger Blue through 2017 and possibly 2018 if a vesting option kicks in.
This marks the first big move for the new Dodgers ownership group led by Stan Kasten, Magic Johnson and Mark Walter's big fat bank account and a big move it is. It was only a few months ago that Ethier was reportedly unhappy with the Dodgers and now deposed owner Frank McCourt. Part of that had to do with him wanting an extension from the financially strapped McCourt but there was also a clash between Ethier and the team regarding the treatment of a knee injury he was nursing.
But it appears the new owners, their open wallet and the Dodgers' hot start has made Ethier forget all that unpleasantness. With a contract now paying him almost as much as Jose Reyes got this last off-season, assuming Ethie's sixth-year option vests, Andre has to be pleased. The Dodgers though are taking something of a risk.
While Ethier is having a great season thus far, he is coming off a 2011 campaign in which in which he hit just 11 home runs. He is also being paid franchise-player money despite being pretty clearly the Robin to Matt Kemp's Batman. In fact, one criticism Ethier has received in his career is that his numbers are inflated by hitting behind or in front of Matt Kemp and, before him, Manny Ramirez before ManRam went in the tank. Say what you will about that opinion though because it doesn't matter very much given that Matt Kemp is also locked into a long-term deal, so it will be a long, long time before Ethier isn't paired with Kemp in the middle of the order.
Even if this does appear to be something of an overpay for the Dodgers though, it is still a positive sign. The new owners have now officially declared that they are in place and open for business. First, they've re-signed their own guy, up next is likely the Dodger front office being permitted to aggressively hit the trade market with an ability to take on payroll in order to upgrade the roster to keep the Dodgers out in front of the pack in the NL West.