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It's time for the Dodgers to lock up Andre Ethier

February 15, 2012 |  8:03 am

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If the Dodgers believe in Andre Ethier, if they are confident he will rebound and have a successful 2012 season, they need to sign him to a long-term contract. Like soon.

If they wait and he puts together another season like he did in 2009 (31 homers, 92 runs, 106 runs batted in) or even approaches a full season like the start he was off to in 2010 before breaking his pinkie, it could either cost them a serious amount of dough or his services completely.

It’s a risk worth taking, and I know when talking about the moody Ethier, risk is inherent.

At the end of the season, Ethier will become a free agent for the first time. He was already talking about leaving the team on the eve of last season, so it’s not hard to imagine his heading elsewhere next winter.

Ethier is coming off the worst season of his career (11 homers, 62 RBIs, a .421 slugging percentage). He is coming off knee surgery.

He is unlikely to ever be cheaper to sign to a multiyear contract than he is right now.

But if he puts together a big season and enters free agency, the Dodgers might have to compete with the likes of the Red Sox or Yankees and the price for the two-time All-Star takes off.

If they can sign him to a three-year contract –- and based on his current deal –- for something in the upper $30-million range, they should go for it.

The Dodgers signed Ethier to a one-year, $10.95-million contract last month. They avoided arbitration, which is swell, but now should do more. He turns 30 the first week of the season, so it’s not like they’re looking at Matt Kemp years and money.

After Kemp, who is the Dodgers’ second-best hitter? It’s Ethier. He certainly is against right-handed pitchers.

Why take a chance on losing your second-most important offensive player, one who apparently played through knee pain his 2011 season and who still has a sweet swing? You don’t take that chance, not with what you have left behind if he exits.

Ethier and the Dodgers have both said they would be interested in a multiyear deal. With Ethier things can change, and maybe he now thinks it would be smarter to see who the team’s new owner is and what kind of year he puts together.

But he also likes to feel wanted and secure, and that’s what a long-term contract would offer. So offer it.

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-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Dodgers right fielder Andre Ethier. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

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