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Trade deadline and the Dodgers' Andre Ethier dilemma

July 26, 2011 |  6:18 am

Photo: Andre Ethier rounds the bases after hitting a two-run homerun against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the third inning of the game at Dodger Stadium on Monday. Credit: Jeff Golden / Getty Images So maybe you think this one is a no-brainer: Andre Ethier is one of the Dodgers' few stars, a two-time all-star, a building block for the future.

No way you trade Ethier. He's still in his prime. When he's of the mood, he's one of the few charismatic figures on the club.

Only it's not that difficult to argue that the smart baseball move is to trade him now -- while he's still fairly young, has one year of arbitration left and can bring an attractive package in return, while he's still at his trading peak.

Either that or the Dodgers are going to need to sign him to a long-term contract.

That's a significant, expensive decision for a franchise to make. And of course, it comes at a time when the Dodgers are in an organizational void that makes any determination about their future almost moot.

How do they plan for the future while in bankruptcy court and uncertain who the owner will be next season? How can they make a substantial determination about their future when hamstrung and so much is unknown?

Ethier, 29, is making $9.5 million this season, and is on schedule for a meaningful raise that could leave him the Dodgers' top-paid player next year.

Is that what they want? Or do they sign him to a long-term contract and keep him around an additional four years? How can they know what they want when they don’t know who their owner will be or how much money he or she will have to spend?

Chad Billingsley signed a three-year, $35-million contract in the offseason, which, as you may recall, seemed to miff Ethier, who would also like a long-term deal.

But if they're not going to lock him up -- and his more modest power numbers can't be convincing them of what direction to take -- then the smart thing would be to trade him while he's at peak value.

He's not more attractive than Carlos Beltran, who's five years older, or B.J. Upton? And is still under control for one more year?

Ethier could bring a serious package of players by Sunday, which almost no other Dodger could. Something to truly build on.

The Dodgers could claim they can sign him for next season and then have another year to figure it out, which is true, though when against the clock you have less bargaining power.

This is a key decision, and could prove a watershed moment in the immediate future of the Dodgers. Only that requires being able to have a vision for your future.

Meanwhile, the Ethier decision twists in the wind, and will likely go unaddressed because of simple organizational inertia.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Andre Ethier rounds the bases after hitting a two-run homerun against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the third inning of the game at Dodger Stadium on Monday. Credit: Jeff Golden / Getty Images

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