For the second time in eight months, the Los Angeles Dodgers made a long-term commitment to an All-Star outfielder. Andre Ethier signed a five-year, $85 million contract on Tuesday, and will remain in Los Angeles with his longtime teammate Matt Kemp through at least 2017.
Kemp, who signed an eight-year, $160 million contract in November, has been a teammate of Ethier with the Dodgers since 2006, and the duo were also teammates on the Phoenix Desert Dogs of the Arizona Fall League in 2005, when Ethier was still a minor leaguer in the Oakland Athletics' system.
"You have two guys who know each other real well. It's not a thing where we've matched up recently. We've seen each other from day one playing on that Arizona Fall League team," Ethier said Tuesday. "Even beyond the offensive part, we know each other defensively. I can look up most of the time and know where Matty's at and be comfortable. Beyond just the one-two punch of offense, you've got the defensive part of it and you don't see that too often in baseball."
Chad Billingsley, like Kemp and Ethier, debuted with the Dodgers in 2006. Billingsley signed a contract extension last year through 2014, with an option for 2015. All three players would have been free agents after the 2012 season had they not re-signed with the Dodgers.
General manager Ned Colletti sees the retention of homegrown players as essential to building a successful franchise.
"It's vital in this day and age where players don't necessarily stay with one team for a long period of time. If you believe in your core guys and you develop them and bring them up, and they're successful and they understand the city and the culture," Colletti said. "It's tough to replace guys like that."
But homegrown players aren't the only ones on the radar for the Dodgers. Ethier put out a plea to pending free agents in his press conference on Tuesday, putting Colletti, new president and CEO Stan Kasten and the new ownership group on notice.
"Let it be known to all you players out there who are going to be looking at a team in the next couple of years," Ethier said. "Don't be afraid to look at the Dodgers, and consider this the team that's going to be out there on the forefront searching for players."
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