Frank McCourt may have been a terrible owner but he is turning into quite the apologist. Ever since he lost his battle with Bud Selig to retain control of the Dodgers, McCourt has been running around admitting he was wrong for putting team revenues into his own pocket rather than using them to build a contender. Now he may have finally put his money where his mouth is.
In what may be his final major act as an owner, there are reports McCourt is ready to sign star outfielder Matt Kemp (.324 BA, 39 HR, 126 RBI in 2011) to a historic long term contract. Kemp, 27, who could become a free agent after the 2012 season, has been offered an 8 year, $160 million deal which would be the biggest contract in National League history. The numbers are huge but not necessarily surprising. Kemp’s agent, Dave Stewart, had previously stated that if the Dodgers wanted to sign Kemp to a multi-year deal, the 7 year, $142 million contract Carl Crawford signed with Boston last year would be the starting point. The offer comes just as Kemp wrapped up a 2 year, $11 million contract and would enter into arbitration proceedings. According to those familiar with the process, his MVP-like numbers would have translated into a $16 million salary for 2012.
Since becoming the Dodgers full-time centerfielder in 2008, Kemp has averaged a .290 BA, 27 HR, and 98 RBI per season. Signing a player for this long is uncharted territory for GM Ned Colletti. Since becoming the GM in 2005, the longest contract Colletti has entered into with an everyday position player is three years.
This is a move that will undoubtedly contribute to the recent upswing in Dodgers season ticket sales. The Dodgers have reported an increase in the amount of season ticket inquiries since McCourt announced he was selling the team. The Dodgers sold about 17,000 season tickets last year, well below the “pre-McCourt” days when the team would easily reach 27,000 and have to start waiting lists. The signing of Kemp will probably get even more lines ringing.
This signing could also be the prelude to more actions by the Dodgers, both good and, perhaps, not-so-good. There is talk the Dodgers will also push to sign pitcher Clayton Kershaw to a long term deal in spite of him being under team control until 2014. On the other hand, outfielder Andre Ethier, who, like Kemp, is eligible for arbitration and becomes a free agent in 2012, may be wondering what his future holds. Rumors are Ethier and manager Don Mattingly don’t quite see eye to eye and that Ethier’s good friend, the Red Sox Dustin Pedroia, has talked to Andre about one day roaming the outfield of Fenway Park.
Obviously, McCourt knows he won’t be cutting the checks but the fact the Dodgers could pull this off in spite of all the turmoil may be penultimate signal that Frank is looking to leave the team with a modicum of class. But why would Kemp want to sign with a team in disarray when perennial contenders like the Red Sox and Yankees probably would have been calling him after the 2012 season?
“The East coast, to me it’s too cold over there. I like the West Coast. The West Coast is sunny,” Kemp joked.
Uh, do the Molinas have any more brothers?
Current Pittsburgh Pirates catcher and free agent Ryan Doumit, 30, turned down a one year, $3 million contract offer from the Dodgers. Doumit (.303 BA in 2011) may be the most sought after catcher this off-season. Doumit just got married this past weekend so my hunch is a multi-year deal would sit better with the new wife.
If the season started today, the Dodgers would not have a proven catcher. A.J Ellis has been toiling in the Dodgers farm system since 2003 and has played in only 85 major league games. His one claim to fame, so to speak, came in August of 2010 when an injury to catcher Russell Martin saw Ellis get tabbed as the starting catcher for the first time in his career. Ellis went on to become the “feel good” story of the Dodgers season when his wife, who was expected to give birth just as the Dodgers embarked on an East Coast road trip, publicly told her husband it was okay to miss the big moment just so he could live out his major league dream.
Fedorowicz, acquired from the Red Sox minor league system last August, played in seven major league games when the Dodgers were able to expand their roster in September. He hit just .154.
Carroll Jumps to the Lake
Infielder Jamey Carroll is taking his skills to the Land of a 1,000 Lakes in Minnesota after completing the two year deal he signed with the Dodgers in 2009. The combination of the ownership turmoil, Carroll’s age (he’ll turn 38 in February), plus the focus on Kemp made it unlikely the Dodgers would match the 2 year, $7 million deal the Twins offered him.
In 2010, Carroll became one of the most popular Dodgers when injuries to others turned him from a utility man to a full time player. He was a “sparkplug” of sorts when he hit .327 over the final two months of the season, in spite of the Dodgers falling out of the postseason race.
Carroll’s departure prompted the Dodgers to sign free agent second baseman Mark Ellis. Ellis, 34, played for Oakland from 2002 until the middle of last season. He was traded to the Rockies at the end of June and appeared to get “in sync” with shortstop Troy Tulowitzki very quickly. Statistically, the two were rated the fourth best double play combination in the National League. Ellis has a lifetime batting average of .266 but has seen his power numbers fall off dramatically. He hit 19 home runs in 2007 yet has averaged just six over the last two seasons.