The hits just keep coming. I mean, the rumors. Anyway, let’s hope they’re only the stuff of silly speculation. Hits are very much needed.
The Dodgers want to move an outfielder, maybe two, and the one getting the most attention is Matt Kemp? The Baltimore Orioles, San Diego Padres, Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners have all reportedly expressed serious interest in Kemp.
Now, if you’re the Dodgers, sure, you listen. That’s basic due diligence. But unless they’re just blown away by an offer, there should be no way Kemp is the one moved.
The Dodgers “lost” free agent Hanley Ramirez to the Boston Red Sox after the shortstop signed a jaw-dropping $88-million deal. They can’t really afford to lose the only other real right-handed power in the lineup. Certainly you’re not going to count on the streaky Yasiel Puig, who hit exactly one home run in a 54-game stretch from June 5 to Sept. 15?
Since ownership is so blindly in love with Puig (corrected: can opt into arbitration after three years of major league service time), he’s not going anywhere. So if they’re seriously listening to offers for Kemp, they must be finding a nothing market for Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford.
It’s impossible to reject a trade when you unaware of what’s included, but it is unlikely another team is going to include some can’t-miss prospect for Kemp. As excited as fans are over the way Kemp finished last season (.306, 20 homers, 70 runs batted in, 23 doubles in his last 92 games), there are still all those injuries and struggles the previous two seasons.
So if you’re not going to get some serious phenom in return, why trade Kemp? There’s zero power available in free agency and it’s becoming rarer in this post-steroids era.
I repeat: The unreliable, typically dour and frequently injured Ramirez just signed for $88 million for four years. Kemp’s owed $106 million over the next five and he’s a year younger. People who assume there is no way Kemp could get an equal contract if he were a free agent now, best look at Ramirez. Can’t imagine it would be too far off.
The real unknown here is the Geek Squad. New President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman, General Manager Farhan Zaidi and Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations Josh Byrnes all come from small market clubs. They’re playing with real money for the first time in their careers. They supposedly think outside the traditional baseball box. We’re still learning what they really value.
But this Dodgers’ team is built to win it all, right now. It won 94 games last year, and it was considered a disappointing season. It’s difficult to imagine that a team that is a player or a play away from the World Series is going to trade Kemp.
They want to shed some contract, they’d best do it while remembering their primary charge is to win now. And logic says, that should include Kemp.