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Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Dodgers lock up Billingsley: Good move

By David Schoenfield

The Dodgers apparently do have some spare change in their pockets, because they signed Chad Billingsley to a three-year contract extension through 2014, with a club option for 2015.

Chad Billingsley
Chad Billingsley was 12-11 last season with a 3.57 ERA.
If the option is exercised, the deal is worth $46 million -- $11.5 million per season -- a good deal for the Dodgers to secure the services of a quality right-hander who slots in nicely as the No. 2 starter behind ace Clayton Kershaw.

The best thing about Billingsley is his reliability: He's one of just 33 pitchers to make at least 30 starts each of the past three seasons, and of those 33 only Felix Hernandez was younger. Of the 43 pitchers to make at least 90 starts over that span, he's 21st in ERA+ and 28th in innings pitched. His career high in innings is 200 in 2008, so the main thing keeping him from becoming a top-20 starter is increasing his workload into the 220-inning range. The Dodgers did push him a little more at times last season (four starts of 120-plus pitches) so it will be interesting to see if Don Mattingly believes Billingsley has the stamina to pitch deeper into games. (Data from Baseball-Reference.com.)

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In other Dodger news, Andre Ethier didn't back off his comments suggesting this could be his last season in L.A. Jon Weisman over at Dodger Thoughts wrote about this and pointed out Ethier is just the fifth Los Angeles Dodgers player to record three straight seasons with an OPS+ of 130 or greater.

Ethier
Ethier
There's no doubt Ethier is a big-time masher (well, at least against right-handers), but I'm not sure he's worth a big extension like Billingsley. For one thing, Ethier is 29, so he's already reached his peak. Two, his troubles against lefties (.247/.311/.370 career) are problematic. Finally, he's a lousy right fielder, negating some of his hitting value. All the defensive metrics out there rate him as one of the worst outfielders in the game. As good as he is with the stick, I'd be hesitant about signing him for more than $10-11 million per season. (Although Ethier is being a bit overdramatic when stating he could be nontendered after this season.)

Follow David Schoenfield on Twitter at @dschoenfield. Follow the SweetSpot blog at @espn_sweet_spot.