Dodgers sign Ethier to 5-year deal

LOS ANGELES (AP) - The Los Angeles Dodgers signed outfielder Andre Ethier to a five-year deal through 2017 on Tuesday, keeping him and Matt Kemp together in the middle of the lineup.

It’s the team’s first major move under a new ownership group that includes former Los Angeles Lakers star Magic Johnson.

Ethier avoided arbitration last winter, agreeing to a $10.95 million contract for this season. He could have tested free agency at season’s end.

“I knew there were options at the end of the day, but why look at them when the best option is here?” he said.

“A friend of mine said a couple weeks ago, `You were meant to play here and you wouldn’t play good anywhere else.’ That kind of rang true and let me think what’s the purpose of holding out a few more months?”

General manager Ned Colletti and new President and CEO Stan Kasten joined Ethier at a news conference overlooking the field at Dodger Stadium. Manager Don Mattingly, along with All-Star slugger Matt Kemp and pitcher Javy Guerra were there. Ethier’s wife, Maggie, the couple’s two young sons, who wore their dad’s No. 16 jersey, and his parents also attended.

Ethier leads the National League with 53 RBIs. The 30-year-old right fielder is a two-time All-Star who is batting .287 with 10 home runs going into Tuesday night’s game against the Angels.

He’s been with the team for six seasons, winning a Silver Slugger award in 2009 and a Gold Glove award last year.

“He’s part of the core, part of what we’re trying to build on,” Colletti said. “You got to keep guys like that around. If you believe in your core guys and you develop them, it’s tough to replace guys like that.”

Colletti, who rarely does deals during the season, said he told all of the team’s prospective owners that signing Ethier to a long-term deal was a priority if they were to take control of the team.

“These owners aren’t messing around with making this team and stadium the best it can be,” Ethier said.

He said Kasten talked to him two weeks ago about the ownership group’s plans for the team.

“Obviously, that set my mind at ease,” Ethier said. “I knew things were going to get better around here no matter what.”

Last season, Ethier had a 30-game hitting streak and batted .292 with 11 home runs and 62 RBIs before having left knee surgery in September.

Colletti said he doesn’t expect the deal to affect Ethier’s future performance.

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