A little musing on Andre Ethier and Matt Holliday
I had a thought when I started seeing the details of the new Andre Ethier contract, as reported by my friend and teammate Jesse Sanchez among others last night.
Not so much about whether it’s a good or bad deal especially; I think I like it a little more than some of my analyst friends do, but not as much as it seems that more traditionally-minded ball writers do. Instead, my mind wandered to some thoughts about context and comparables, and one comparable in particular. Essentially, the Dodgers have given Ethier the second through sixth years of Matt Holliday’s contract, plus the option.
Ethier and Holliday are closer in age than I suspect many people think. Holliday is two years older, but his deal started three years earlier, so the deals cover very similar portions of the two men’s careers. His deal covers his age-30 through 36 seasons, with an option on 37, at a clean $17 million per year. Ethier’s deal covers his age-31 through 35 seasons, with an option on 36, at $17 million per year. The Cardinals’ option is a straight club option, whereas Ethier’s deal has a vesting option based on plate appearances. One significant difference: Holliday has blanket no-trade protection. Ethier doesn’t yet, though he’ll reach 10-5 status sometime early in 2016.
And in broad strokes, they’re pretty similar players. They both have well-rounded offensive games, with moderate but not spectacular power, solid strike zone judgment but not extremely high walk rates, and not much speed. Holliday is a better hitter for average, but they’re more or less cut from the same cloth.
Here’s the thing, though: by pretty much any measure, Holliday does those things better. He’s a better player. He has significantly higher career AVG/OBP/SLG, and before you write that off to Coors Field, Holliday has been better over the past two-plus years to boot. Since the start of his deal, the start of the 2010 season, Holliday has hit 300/384/516 in 340 games. In that same span of time, Ethier has hit 292/364/469 in 334 games. He’s also the better defender by pretty much every statistical measurement that I use and trust. They have similar durability records.
There’s not really a huge, block-letter point here, other than this: with every year that goes by, and every new outfielder contract that gets signed, the Holliday deal looks a little better. And I should probably eat a little crow on that. I didn’t hate it when it was signed, but I didn’t love it, either. It seemed like an awfully hefty deal and big risk, but the more context we get as far as other deals, the better it looks.