Survivor: Dodgers outfield edition
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Because ESPN had three hours to fill last night and the game between Pittsburgh and Los Angeles wasn't all that exciting, the conversation shifted to something of greater importance: the Dodgers' overpopulated outfield.

It's a problem we've pondered since Yasiel Puig showed up on the scene last June. Our own Steve Schwarz even addressed the situation in his January 28 column, "Is the Dodgers' outfield the best?"

But that was months ago. Why are we still talking about it? Surely a month of spring training and 58 regular season games was more than enough time for Los Angeles to solve its outfield conundrum.

Yet here we are on June 2nd still trying to piece this thing together. Carl Crawford's ankle injury has given fringe players Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier a temporary reprieve but when Crawford returns, a decision will have to be made. And if that wasn't complicated enough, top prospect Joc Pederson is knocking on the door for a big league promotion.

The whole thing has a very Survivor feel to it. Imagine the Dodgers' clubhouse littered with Tiki torches and Don Mattingly playing the role of Jeff Probst. Yasiel Puig has just won the immunity challenge and Matt Kemp is giving his version of Susan's "snakes and rats" speech, urging the others to vote Ethier off the island.

This is baseball drama at its finest. And it's being narrated by Vin Scully, which makes it all the more captivating. You're all invited to my house to watch this week's episode. But first let's meet the contestants.

Carl Crawford

Why he should stay:

Crawford can still hit for average (kind of) and he's a decent enough defensive left fielder. Crawford also has almost 1,600 games of big league experience and he's still one of the faster players on L.A.'s roster. But the biggest reason for keeping Crawford is the simple fact that Los Angeles can't get rid of him. He's 33, clearly on the decline and one of the most egregiously overpaid players in baseball. His trade value is essentially nil.

Why he shouldn't:

Crawford bashed 19 homers in 2010. Since then, he's hit just 24. But worst of all, Crawford can't seem to stay healthy. In the last three years, he's missed 191 games including 14 already this season. It sure doesn't help that Crawford is hitting only .212 against lefties since 2011.

Andre Ethier

Why he should stay:

Ethier can play all three outfield positions and he's a lifetime .287 hitter. Compared to the other Dodgers outfielders (specifically Crawford and Kemp), he's been relatively durable (at least 135 games played each of the last seven seasons). He's certainly not a bargain but his $15.5 million annual salary is a lot more reasonable than Crawford's $20.25 million and Kemp's $21 million.

Why he shouldn't:

Out of all the Dodgers outfielders, he'd probably be the easiest one to trade. That could come in handy if L.A. decides to address its obvious need at catcher (Drew Butera has been filling in for the injured A.J. Ellis). Ethier's production may be steadier than Kemp's or Crawford's but his ceiling is much lower. And just like Crawford, he's been awful against left-handed pitching (.200 AVG in 25 at bats this season).

Matt Kemp

Why he should stay:

He's Matt Kemp. The outfielder has always been a fan favorite and his 2011 season (.324, 39 HR, 126 RBI, 40 SB) was one for the ages. The 50-50 season he promised will probably never happen but 20/20 doesn't seem out of reach. And again, it would be tough to trade him given his monster salary.

Why he shouldn't:

Kemp has been almost as injury-prone as Crawford, missing 155 games since the start of 2012. Though not a Manny Ramirez-level diva, Kemp does have a healthy ego. That could spell trouble in the clubhouse, especially if Mattingly continues to start Ethier in center field over Kemp. At age 29 and with a .262 batting average over the last two seasons, you get the feeling Kemp is running out of time to turn things around.

Joc Pederson

Why he should get called up:

Pederson has been crushing it in Triple-A. In fact, with 15 HR, a .332 average and 13 stolen bases so far, he could be the most complete player in minor league baseball. At 22 years of age, he's right where he should be right now. In fact, the 6-foot-1, 185-pounder may even be slightly ahead of schedule.

Why he shouldn't:

Kemp, Crawford, Ethier and even Puig to a lesser extent all had to pay their dues. With $58.75 million invested in their outfield right now, the Dodgers can afford to let Pederson get as much seasoning as possible in the minor leagues. It's been said that playing every day in Triple-A is more beneficial to a player than sitting on the bench in the majors and the Dodgers certainly subscribe to that.

There's another possibility too. Pederson has never played a major league game so we still don't really know his shortcomings (or if he has any). That means his trade value is at an all-time high. If the Dodgers want to swing for the fences in a blockbuster deal this summer, or even next offseason, Pederson may be the best bargaining chip they have.

Yasiel Puig

Why he should stay:

Right now, Puig is probably the second or third-best player in the National League (Troy Tulowitzki and Giancarlo Stanton are also in the mix). He does everything well and he has so much fun doing it. Puig (.347, 11 HR, 40 RBI, 5 SB) is already a cultural icon and one of the biggest draws in the major leagues.

Why he shouldn't:

We all know Puig plays with his hair on fire. Though that reckless style of play probably endears him to the average fan, Puig has a tendency to drive Don Mattingly crazy. That may earn him a timeout once in a while but Puig is way too talented for the Dodgers to even consider trading him. He's not going anywhere.

The verdict:

Though Crawford is probably the weakest link, if the Dodgers want to unload an outfielder Ethier should be the one to go. He'd be a perfect fit in Boston where Jackie Bradley Jr. and Grady Sizemore have been dead weight in the lineup. A package including Will Middlebrooks or Brock Holt could appeal to the Dodgers, who have been trotting out ancient Juan Uribe and the eternally average Justin Turner at third base. Plus these teams have a history (the Josh Beckett/Adrian Gonzalez trade in 2012).

Hand me your torch, Andre. The tribe has spoken.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Jesse Pantuosco at jpantuosco@sportsnetwork.com.

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