My least favorite subject.
Everyone knows that the Los Angeles Dodgers have an abundance of outfielders. Three are young, inexpensive and talented (Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson and to a much lesser extent, Scott Van Slyke). Two are older, expensive, and their value isn’t exactly high (Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford). And then, there’s Matt Kemp.
Kemp is somewhere in the middle of these categories. He’s younger than Ethier and Crawford. He’s a much better than player than either of the two. But he’s also extremely expensive and a liability defensively.
It doesn’t make any sense for the Dodgers to move Puig, who may be the face of a team that also has the best pitcher in baseball, Clayton Kershaw. Unless they get a huge return (I’m talking about like Kris Bryant+Starlin Castro big). And that’s not going to happen. Joc isn’t as safe as Puig, but the Dodgers hesitated to trade him at last years trade deadline. Joc is still one of the top Dodger prospects, but his value may be a smidge lower after struggling to make contact in his first stint in the major leagues.
Van Slyke is far from safe, but the Dodgers wouldn’t really accomplish anything in trading him. He’s a perfect platoon guy for Ethier or Crawford, both of whom struggle mightily against left-handed pitching. He also provides value as a backup first baseman for Adrian Gonzalez, who also struggles against lefties. He’s a perfect bench player/spot starter, and trading him does nothing to solve the outfield traffic jam.
The Dodgers would obviously prefer to trade Crawford or Ethier, but it’s unknown how many suitors they would have. If the Dodgers ate enough salary, I’m sure a team in dire need of outfield help would bite, but the Dodgers wouldn’t get much in return. I still believe Ethier could have success in a friendly ballpark (looking at you, Yankees).
The most tradable asset the Dodgers have in their outfield is Kemp. He would be able to fetch the biggest return, but I firmly believe the Dodgers will need Kemp in 2015 and beyond, and he should be virtually untouchable. Everyone has a price, but I don’t think the Dodgers would get a good enough return on Kemp.
If you know me, it’s no secret that Matt Kemp is one of my favorite athletes. From a personal standpoint, it would be heartbreaking to see him in another uniform. So let’s take my personal bias out of the equation.
When he was healthy and playing every day last year, Kemp was one of the best offensive players in baseball. After the all-star break last year, Kemp slashed .309/.365/.606 with 17 home runs and only 58 strikeouts in 263 plate appearances. He did this despite a slight decrease in BABIP from the first half of the season (.349 in the first half, .339 in the second).
Kemp’s bat is going to be a difference maker in this lineup. The offseason has just begun, but the Dodgers losing Hanley Ramirez was a big blow offensively. They’re obviously not done making moves, but if you take Kemp out of the lineup it leaves Puig, Juan Uribe, A.J. Ellis, and whoever they get to play shortstop as the only right-handed bats. Puig is awesome, Uribe is two years removed from being the most heavily booed Dodger I think I have ever seen at Dodger Stadium, and Ellis and the shortstop will likely be hitting at the bottom of the order.
#Mariners have had trade talks on multiple RH outfielders, including Matt Kemp, Yoenis Cespedes, and Justin Upton. They want to land one.
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 25, 2014
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 26, 2014
The Mariners have been interested in outfielders seemingly since Griffey left, so it’s not surprising to me that they would be interested in Kemp. Hisashi Iwakuma has been thrown out as possible trade bait in a deal for Yoenis Cespedes, so he could be involved should the Dodgers send Kemp to Seattle. However, Iwakuma would be on a team option year and will be 34 next April. With Zack Greinke potentially opting out of his contract after next season, I doubt the Dodgers trade Kemp for a one-year rental.
The Padres are interesting. After missing out on Jason Heyward, they still need outfield help. New GM Logan White drafted Kemp as a Dodgers’ scout in 2003, so it seems like it could be a match. I’ve always believed that inter-divisional trades should usually be a huge overpay, so if they Dodgers choose to trade Kemp to San Diego, San Diego should be prepared for a huge haul. I think this conversation begins with Tyson Ross, a 27-year old who becomes arbitration-eligible after next season. Aside from him, it should also include a catcher (Yasmani Grandal?) and another good prospect or two for the Dodgers to consider dealing Kemp down to San Diego.
The Dodgers need to trade an outfielder, but it does not have to be Kemp. My ideal outfield would be Kemp, Puig and Pederson (or Puig, Giancarlo Stanton and Mike Trout… a guy can dream right?). Unless a team is willing to crazily overpay, Kemp should have a spot in the Dodgers’ outfield next year.