Dodgers Report: Matt Kemp
Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti is a hoarder of pitching
That, of course, makes him no different than most GMs, who acquire as many quality arms as they can, hoping one little adjustment can turn them into a serviceable major-league pitcher. Colletti just carries it to extremes.
A year ago, Colletti looked like he had found a diamond in the rough when he signed declining closer Kevin Gregg to a minor-league deal and invited him to camp. Gregg was the most dominant reliever the Dodgers had all spring, pitching to a .088 ERA in 11 spring innings.
The Dodgers, however, couldn’t find a roster spot for him and released him shortly before Opening Day. Gregg probably could have come in handy, particularly while Brandon League was imploding early in the season. He wound up as the closer for the Chicago Cubs. On a really bad team, he saved 33 games.
A similar roster conundrum could be brewing with Seth Rosin. The Dodgers acquired Rosin from the New York Mets shortly after the Mets took him from the Philadelphia Phillies in the Rule 5 draft. Rosin, a hulking 6-foot-6 right-hander, has been working with Dodgers pitching coaches on using his lower half to drive off the mound, which could give him a few extra ticks of velocity.
It looks like it might be working. In five scoreless innings, Rosin has struck out eight batters. What if he keeps mowing down hitters for another 10 days?
The Dodgers have a bullpen packed with guaranteed contracts, plus some young relievers like Paco Rodriguez and Chris Withrow who merit opportunities. If Rosin doesn’t land on the Dodgers’ Opening Day roster, they would have to designate him for assignment, which means he could end up back with the Phillies or be taken off waivers by another team.
Second base is still a pile-up
The most wide open competition in camp has gotten just a bit more contained. It appears more and more likely that Alex Guerrero will begin the season at Triple-A Albuquerque so he can continue the transition from shortstop and get his swing back up to speed after a year away from the game.
It looks like the Dodgers will open the season using a platoon at second base involving either Dee Gordon or Chone Figgins as the lefty half and Justin Turner, Brendan Harris or Miguel Rojas as the righty half.
Gordon has done the most to earn his spot this spring, playing strong defense at second and showing a little more power after packing on 13 pounds of muscle. He has two doubles, three stolen bases and hit a home run in an intrasquad game. Figgins brings greater versatility because he can play above-average third base, but he’ll have to prove he can hit after two dismal seasons in Seattle. Figgins is batting .154 in 13 at-bats.
Of the righties, Rojas is the best defender. Harris and Turner are steady and versatile without having major offensive upside. A good guess would be a Gordon-Turner platoon in Australia.
The outfield looks settled… for now
Matt Kemp isn’t going to be ready for Australia. In fact, the Dodgers aren’t even sure if he’ll play in any of their exhibition games, which include three games in Southern California against the Angels at the end of the month. They say Kemp is in stage 5 of a 7-step recovery from ankle surgery, but they’ve given no details on what the final two hurdles are.
So, the four-outfielder conundrum is on-hold for the time being. Presuming all of them get through the spring healthy, Carl Crawford will start in left field, Andre Ethier will start in center and Yasiel Puig will start in right.
It appears likely that Kemp’s rehab will spill into April. His first games figure to be against minor-leaguers in extended spring training and, possibly, the regular season. If he feels good in a month or so, let the who-gets-traded debate begin!
"We're all hopeful it's not a torn [ligament]," Stripling said.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said Stripling, in his first major-league camp, felt the pain five or six days ago and kept it to himself because he wanted to open some eyes. Stripling was ranked by ESPN’s Keith Law as the Dodgers’ No. 8 prospect. He was 6-4 with a 2.78 ERA at Double-A Chattanooga last season.
“Ross is a great kid, but it does go back to that same old thing that you see every spring,” Mattingly said. “Somebody doesn’t tell somebody and it winds up costing them more time than it needs to.”
Stripling pitched two innings in the Dodgers’ Cactus League game Wednesday. Mattingly said that, at a minimum, Stripling would be out of action for a week or 10 days.
In other injury news:
Zack Greinke, who strained his right calf Thursday in his first spring start, looks like he’ll be fine. Mattingly said he may play catch Friday and could throw a bullpen session Saturday, adding that he could still make one of the two starts in Australia, though that seems unlikely.
Matt Kemp had an MRI on his left ankle Thursday and Mattingly said results were sent to team doctor Neal ElAttrache and Kemp’s North Carolina surgeon, Robert Anderson. Mattingly said they’ll hear some time this weekend whether Kemp will be cleared to begin running.
It would be easy to poke fun at Kemp since he can't even run right now as he recovers from ankle surgery (he also had a second surgery on his shoulder), but you can't blame the guy for being a little upset. There's the four-outfielders-for-three-positions situation facing the Los Angeles Dodgers. There were the offseason trade rumors. There's Yasiel Puig, appearing on the magazine covers Kemp once graced, and really making it a three-for-two proposition since Puig needs to play every day.
In Kemp's mind, he probably thinks everyone has forgotten he went .324-39-126 in 2011 (with 40 steals to boot). He deserves to be treated like a superstar, not just another Skip Schumaker.
But that's the root of the question: Is Kemp really a superstar?
Here are Kemp's season-by-season WAR totals, via Baseball-Reference, since he became a regular in 2008 and where he ranked among all major league outfielders (minimum 275 plate appearances):
2008: 3.9 (18th)
2009: 4.8 (9th)
2010: -1.1 (102nd)
2011: 8.1 (1st)
2012: 2.4 (41st)
2013: 0.5 (79th)
In April 2012, it looked like he was on his way to another MVP-level season, hitting .417 with 12 home runs. He was the fourth player to hit at least .400 with 10 home runs in April and the first to do it in any month since Joe Mauer in May 2009. But then came the injuries: first hamstring and shoulder issues and then the ankle injury suffered on July 21 on an awkward slide into home plate.
Maybe it's not fair, but part of being a superstar is remaining healthy. It was a major aspect of Derek Jeter's value, for example -- from 1996 through 2012 he averaged 151 games per year. Right now, the idea of Kemp as a superstar is predicated on one outlier of a season.
Kemp is now 29, and considering the two years of injuries you also have to wonder if he'll be a viable center fielder when he returns. He's won two Gold Gloves, but the defensive metrics have never liked his defense; while he makes the occasional terrific play, he also gets a lot of bad jumps and doesn't get to many routine balls. Defensive Runs Saved rates him at minus-60 runs in his career in center (Ultimate Zone Rating has him at minus-60.5 runs). If Kemp's ankle issues result in a loss of speed, Andre Ethier is likely the better defensive option. With Puig entrenched in right field, that pushes Kemp to left -- where the Dodgers already have another guy with a $100 million contract in Carl Crawford.
Right now, it may seem like a luxury that the Dodgers have four outfielders. But Kemp's words allude to this situation being one huge headache for manager Don Mattingly.
First, it proves, yet again, that the Dodgers will continue to push and pull against the MLB thrust to constrain teams from driving up the cost of players. Because Arruebarruena is 23 and has played six seasons in the Cuban professional league, his deal -- which Enrique Rojas estimates at $25 million -- will not count against international spending limits.
The Dodgers also sidestepped those limits with previous deals involving Yasiel Puig ($42 million) and Alex Guerrero ($28 million). They even found a loophole when they signed their top young pitching prospect. Former Mexican pro players, such as 17-year-old lefty Julio Urias, are not subject to the same international spending cap.
Second, the deal speaks to some worry about pairing what appears to be championship-caliber pitching with shaky up-the-middle defense.
By early accounts, which can be sketchy and unreliable, Arruebarruena is an accomplished fielder whose ability to hit major-league pitching is a major question. The comparison most commonly made is to the Detroit Tigers’ Jose Iglesias.
Projecting an everyday lineup for, say, early May, the Dodgers could have below-average fielders (and above-average hitters) at shortstop (Hanley Ramirez), second base (Alex Guerrero) and center field (Matt Kemp). That’s not exactly a good way to encourage your pitchers to pitch to contact.
Arruebarruena gives the Dodgers another way to auto-correct if their offense-first plan isn’t working. We can probably assume that Arruebarruena will begin the season at Triple-A, where he could make a dynamic double-play tandem with Miguel Rojas, another defensive specialist. Both players would be options to come up and give the Dodgers a better look when they’re in the field.
The signing raises some longer-range questions. What, for example, are the Dodgers going to do when their top position player prospect, Corey Seager, is ready if we assume they can re-sign Hanley Ramirez and that Arruebarruena pans out?
If this winter has proven anything, it’s that the Dodgers are all about keeping their options open and not at all about keeping a tidy depth chart.
“I’m not made of glass,” Kemp told them. “I’m a beast still.”
If that’s the case, the Dodgers could have a ferocious lineup, but there are a lot of hurdles to clear in the meantime. Foremost is this: Kemp said he hasn’t begun to run yet despite the fact he is more than three months removed from left ankle surgery.
He has kept his conditioning up by working out on an antigravity treadmill, but hasn’t tested it by running the bases or shagging fly balls. Given that the Dodgers’ first game is six and a half weeks off, Opening Day in Australia appears an unlikely target for Kemp’s return. Perhaps their U.S. opener, March 30, is a possibility?
“I’m going to be on my own program for the moment. I’m not rushing back,” Kemp said. “I want to be 100 percent. When I’m 100 percent, that’s when I’ll start playing.”
That sounded a bit ominous, but there was good news. Kemp said his shoulder feels significantly better than it did at this time last year, which is an encouraging sign that his power could be on the mend. Kemp led the league with 39 home runs in 2011, but had just one home run through the first month and a half last season coming off his first round of shoulder surgery.
Kemp had another, smaller-scale procedure this winter. Unlike one year ago, Kemp’s batting practice and weightlifting have begun well ahead of spring training. He’s expected to report along with pitchers, catchers and other injured players to Camelback Ranch on Saturday, the first day of the Dodgers’ spring training.
It’s anybody’s guess what the Dodgers will get out of Kemp. Reviving his near-Triple Crown form of 2011 seems a bit much to ask given the punishment his body has taken the past two seasons. But it also seems likely that greater strength in his shoulder should boost his power sufficiently to improve on last season’s .723 OPS, the lowest of his career.
One projection system, ZiPS, pegs Kemp to hit .274 with 21 doubles, 20 home runs and 75 RBIs, to steal 15 bags and to make 475 plate appearances. The Dodgers would probably take those numbers. Of course, like their fans, they’re always hoping for more.
While perfectly content to enter spring training with all four everyday outfielders still on their roster, the Dodgers also took it as an opportunity to find out what one of them could fetch. The market, it turned out, was not as robust as the team might have hoped.
At the winter meetings last month, general manager Ned Colletti spent a good bit of his time fielding calls and meeting with teams who wanted to trade for Matt Kemp or Andre Ethier -- and a few asking about Yasiel Puig or Carl Crawford -- and came away unmoved.
“It was going to have to be something that we said, ‘Whoa, we can’t hang this call up,’ “ Colletti said. “It never happened.”
It’s not as if Colletti is going to block any incoming calls from rival GMs going forward, so the situation figures to remain fluid. But right now the Dodgers have Kemp, Ethier, Crawford and Puig -- eight All-Star appearances and $61 million in salary between them -- on the roster.
With nine days before pitchers and catchers report, let’s examine some of the questions for a star-studded, but unpredictable outfield:
Are they healthy?
Kemp’s agent, Dave Stewart, told reporters recently that his client is unlikely to be ready for Opening Day in Australia, which comes about a week before the rest of baseball kicks off the schedule around April 1.
That likely caused some consternation in the Dodgers’ front office, as the team had been saying that Kemp’s body was more sound than it was at the start of camp in 2013. Stewart probably has a point, though. Kemp pushed hard to make it back for Opening Day last season and proved both unproductive and fragile early. He didn’t hit his second home run until May 20, 10 days before the first of three trips to the disabled list.
For now, it seems that Kemp’s uncertain health is reason enough to keep Ethier around. Not long before Kemp underwent left ankle surgery, Dodgers team physician Neal ElAttrache said there was enough swelling and instability in the joint to become career-threatening if it doesn’t respond.
And it’s not as if Kemp is the only injury risk. Crawford had Tommy John surgery on his left elbow in 2012 and has dealt with hamstring issues. Ethier has had chronic shin splints and could barely play in the NLCS due to a microfracture in his left leg.
The spectrum of possibilities for the Dodgers outfield is practically infinite. It ranges from superstar production at all three spots -- with the best fourth outfielder in the game -- to a revolving door of injuries and players grumbling about their playing time.
Should be fun.
Would Kemp and Ethier platoon in center?
If Kemp regains his health and establishes himself at early-2012 levels, this is a laughable proposition. Kemp plays center field every day and Ethier and Crawford split playing time. Pretty simple.
But that hasn’t happened yet and one thought that has circulated is the idea of playing Ethier strictly against right-handed pitchers and giving Kemp copious days off against unfavorable matchups. Ethier hit .221 against lefties last season, .294 against righties, numbers that are fairly consistent with his career norms.
If you look at it strictly from the team’s point of view, it could be the ideal arrangement. But to pull it off would take some serious clubhouse diplomacy from manager Don Mattingly. The players in question are highly paid, longtime Dodgers and popular with the fans. They’re also accustomed to playing every day. Kemp got testy last August when someone asked him about his role.
“I'm a center fielder. That's my role, to play center field every day," Kemp said. "I don't know why people keep asking me what role I'm going to play. I want to play every day.”
It’s probably fair to expect more of that if he’s not playing every day.
What to project from Puig?
Again, the possibilities are practically endless. He’s 23 years old, so in theory, he’s only going to get better. But there are statistical anomalies from 2013 that make you wonder whether he can repeat a performance that electrified baseball.
Puig’s 22.5 percent strikeout rate was unusual for a player with such a high batting average, .319 in this case. Of the 24 players who qualified for the batting title and hit over .300 last year, none of them posted a strikeout rate above 22 percent. Puig’s batting average on balls in play, .383, also suggests he had more than his fair share of good luck. His line drive rate dipped after the All-Star break.
But even if Puig hits .285 and remains prone to strikeouts, he still gives the Dodgers a presence in the lineup and is a well-above average base runner and a defensive weapon in right field. So, it’s hard to imagine he won’t be good enough to hold down an everyday job.
Of course, there are all the less-tangible aspects of Puig’s game that became such a distraction at times last year. If he runs into problems with team rules again or continues to make fundamental mistakes, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Mattingly take a tougher stand and cut back on his playing time. The Dodgers have tried to be as accommodating as possible, but have sometimes struggled to get the message across.
What about fielding?
The advanced defensive metric, UZR, is not a fan of Kemp’s. Kemp’s UZR in 2013 was -16.2, which pairs with a Defensive Runs Saved of -6, to create an unflattering picture of Kemp’s ability to track down balls and control the running game from center field.
Crawford is well-above average in left field and Puig is a mixed bag in right. He mixes the spectacular with the spectacularly bad, but the defensive metrics generally liked him in a relatively small sample size.
Ethier is the anti-Puig. He’s not flashy and his tools -- speed, throwing arm -- are in the average range, but he takes good routes and plays under control. He was a pleasant surprise when he moved to center field, a position he had scarcely played.
All in all, the Dodgers should make most of the plays and would probably be a little better off with Ethier in center instead of Kemp.
Will a trade still go down?
It seems like it. The Dodgers would be foolish to make a move before they know how much Kemp is going to be able to do as the spring progresses.
But what if he feels great going into April? What if his bat speed returns and he has no pain running the bases? It still might be prudent to keep all four, mix and match lineups and massage egos until July. By then, the Dodgers will have numbers to work with and other teams will have a good idea how healthy and productive the players are.
That’s when Colletti figures to a flurry of calls once again. Maybe this time he’ll feel compelled not to hang up.
Clayton Kershaw: Just sign the darn contract already.
Yasiel Puig: Just because a car can break the land speed record doesn't mean it should.
Hanley Ramirez: Use a new contract to hire engineers to design you a Dodgers uniform composed of bubble wrap.
Don Mattingly: Cut down on the sacrifice bunts. Oh, and wait a couple of extra days after the season to cool off before meeting the press.
Stan Kasten: Give your fans a little more credit. If you explain that you prefer to keep managers on one-year contracts, they'll probably get it.
Ned Colletti: Don't gut the farm system for a declining veteran, even if it seems like just what you need at the deadline and even if he has a winning pedigree.
Adrian Gonzalez: Play with the flare you showed in the postseason all year long.
Alexander Guerrero: Comport yourself with quiet dignity. Then, perhaps we can be spared the amateur sociologists in the sports world ascribing Puig's antics to his Cuban heritage.
(Ex-Dodger) Mark Ellis: Keep playing the way you play, but please, please don't say it's because of the "Cardinal Way."
Kenley Jansen: Do you really have to come in from the bullpen to "California Love?" You were nine when the guy who made that song died.
Dan Haren: Remember that Cher song, "If I Could Turn Back Time?" Awful song, but good idea.
Hyun-Jin Ryu: According to the In 'N Out Burger menu, one Double-Double has 670 calories. A quadruple-quadruple is too much.
Brian Wilson: Braid your beard so you look exactly like Khal Drogo from "Game of Thrones."
Juan Uribe: We know you signed a two-year deal, but do us a favor and just pretend you're a free agent next fall.
Zack Greinke: Even if you really don't like a hitter, after you hit him with a pitch just get out of the way when he charges.
A.J. Ellis: When you guys play the Cardinals, text Kershaw the signs.
Carl Crawford: We get that Boston wasn't your favorite place to play, but it's OK to let it go.
Andre Ethier: Become the best fourth outfielder in baseball.
Matt Kemp: Whatever "beast mode" means, give everyone a reason to say it again.
Not exactly the name Dodgers fans were hoping for, perhaps?
The Dodgers, always popular with agents and other teams because they spend money and have an active general manager, arrived at the Swan and Dolphin Resort here as a magnet for attention. They left it early Thursday surrounded by silence, but this should be far from alarming to Dodgers fans for two primary reasons.
For one thing, they arrived with far humbler aspirations than most people figured. They were more intent on finding a solution at third base or shortstop, signing a couple of relievers and, maybe, a bench guy than they were in trading Matt Kemp, landing David Price or zeroing in on Masahiro Tanaka.
And, for another thing, they still have nearly two months before they begin spring training.
“It’d be great to establish your team by the end of the calendar year and have it all set, but you know what, we know that that doesn’t always happen,” general manager Ned Colletti said.
So, let’s take a look at the still-unfilled needs and how things evolved in the past four days in Florida:
The Dodgers have options, but before too much longer, they’re going to need to turn those options into an actual infield. If they can’t re-sign Juan Uribe -- and indications are they’re hung up by his agent’s demand for a two-year deal -- they continue to talk about sliding Hanley Ramirez to third base.
That would give them the option of signing a free-agent shortstop. Stephen Drew is the best option left in free agency, but he would cost the Dodgers a draft pick, a commodity they’re hesitant to give away as they look to restock their system. They could also use Alexander Guerrero at shortstop, his natural position. In that scenario, they would make a push to re-sign Mark Ellis and those conversations have continued, Colletti said.
Unfortunately, the Dodgers can’t get a look at Guerrero’s shortstop skills, because his Dominican winter league team is trying to win a championship and is using what it views as its best option, Jonathan Diaz. Colletti recently dispatched special assistant Jose Vizcaino to the Dominican to give them a report on Guerrero. What did he say?
“Hard worker, wants to be great, learning second base, good shortstop,” Colletti said.
If that’s an accurate report, Guerrero looks like the hinge that is allowing the Dodgers to take their time in locking up their starting infield, but given the fact Guerrero has never played a major-league game, it seems like a risky move. Look for the Dodgers to land one of the two veterans, either Uribe or Ellis, in the coming weeks.
No matter what Matt Kemp’s agent, Dave Stewart says, there are no guarantees the Dodgers will arrive at Camelback Ranch with the four starting outfielders they now have on their roster. They could trade Andre Ethier or, maybe, Carl Crawford. And, though the Dodgers assured Stewart they’re not shopping Kemp, they could still part with him if a team overwhelms them with an offer of talented young players.
But indications are the Dodgers haven’t received any interesting offers and will open spring training with all four. They might even travel to Australia for Opening Day with all four. Beyond that, all bets are off.
Manager Don Mattingly said he expects to have them all next season and he views that as a strength rather than a weakness.
“It’s a good problem to have, for me,” Mattingly said. “I really like it that people are saying you can’t have four. We had four last year that never seemed to work out, but there’s nothing wrong with depth.”
According to the Denver Post, the Colorado Rockies are making “real progress,” on signing left-hander J.P. Howell. If they’re willing to offer him a three-year deal, the Dodgers likely won’t be willing to match or trump it.
That could prompt the Dodgers to turn their attention to right-handed relievers and to hope that Onelki Garcia is ready to pitch in the major leagues as a complement to their only proven lefty reliever, Paco Rodriguez. There are still plenty of right-handed relievers left and Colletti said the market has been “locked up” lately. Howell’s signing could unlock it and allow the Dodgers to shore up their bullpen quickly.
Colletti hopes to add two more relievers. One could well be former Dodger long man Jamey Wright. The Dodgers have been in discussion with Wright’s agent, Casey Close. The other figures to be a higher-profile move as the Dodgers have their sights set on landing another pitcher with closing experience.
It appears that any team willing to offer a $20 million posting fee will have the right to speak with the best free agent starting pitcher available, Masahiro Tanaka. That’s assuming Tanaka convinces his Japanese team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, to post him.
If he is made available, it’s too early to rule the Dodgers out as a possible landing spot though the latest indications are that the New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs, Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox could be his most aggressive pursuers. The Dodgers have said they are happy with their starting rotation going into spring training and they wouldn’t seem to have the right prospects to land David Price, but they also have been keeping closely abreast of negotiations over the new posting system.
If Dodgers fans get excited thinking about a rotation with North America’s best starting pitcher, Clayton Kershaw, and Asia’s greatest pitcher, Tanaka, you can bet that Dodgers executives do, too.
"We'd have to get a phone call or meeting that we're not expecting," Colletti said.
The Dodgers came here in search of a solution to the unsettled left side of their infield, and in search of relievers. They're still looking and probably still will be when the front office staff arrives back in Los Angeles Thursday evening.
The Dodgers have made more than one offer to third baseman Juan Uribe, but have gotten no closer to making a deal, apparently because Uribe is holding out for a two-year deal and the Dodgers would prefer to keep it to one. Meanwhile, Colletti said the team had made overtures to free-agent shortstops but wouldn't characterize how aggressive they've been.
Such a scenario would require Hanley Ramirez to move to third base, a far-from-ideal solution given his defensive struggles there and the fact he would prefer not to move again. In 2012, he moved to third base grudgingly in Miami, played third for the Dodgers for a while and then moved back to his natural position, shortstop.
"The question would be are we moving off of Uribe? We're not," Colletti said. "We have different people we continue to have discussions with, we're walking along some at a little different pace depending on what they're trying to accomplish. We've had conversations on four or five different variations of what the left side looks like.
Colletti said Matt Kemp's agent, Dave Stewart, called him to apologize for his comments to several reporters Wednesday in which Stewart said Colletti told him that Kemp would not be traded. Colletti said he would have preferred that such talks remain private. Colletti said he called Stewart to arrange the meeting.
"He's called me and let me know that he probably spoke out of turn or whatever you want to call it, so that's fine," Colletti said.
Colletti said he has had no such meeting with the agent for Andre Ethier. He wouldn't divulge whether the topic of the Dodgers possibly trading Ethier came up.
"It may have, but you know what that was? That was a private conversation," Colletti said.
But the Dodgers continue to say they’re excited about what Kemp could bring to their team, if he’s healthy. Tuesday general manager Ned Colletti said Kemp should be physically ahead of where he was at the beginning of spring training 2013 when he reports in February. He has been lifting weights for more than a month.
It all figures to boil down to this: Will the Dodgers be blown away by another team’s offer? They’re not as interested in unloading most of Kemp’s $128 million contract as they are in restocking their farm system with prime talent.
In the meantime, let’s take a look at a hypothetical lineup with Kemp and another without him.
Carl Crawford LF
Yasiel Puig RF
Hanley Ramirez SS
Adrian Gonzalez 1B
Juan Uribe 3B *
Andre Ethier CF
A.J. Ellis C
Alexander Guerrero 2B
*I’m assuming Uribe re-signs, because, A, I think he will and, B, it makes the exercise easier.
The first lineup has ideal left-right balance through the first five spots and more power than the latter, presumably because Kemp should provide more pop than Andre Ethier, whose home run power has been in steady decline. It also uses, in my opinion, Carl Crawford in a spot that better suits his skill set. Look at the numbers. He’s a better No. 2 hitter than leadoff guy. Once Guerrero settles in, if he’s getting on base, you could consider moving him into the leadoff spot and batting Puig anywhere from second to fifth, depending how he and Kemp are hitting.
All in all, the Dodgers look like a better team with Kemp than without him. It all hinges on his health and the Dodgers’ (and other teams’) perception of it.
Of course, we’re not talking about a one-for-one trade. The Tampa Bay Rays are willing to trade their Cy Young-caliber left-hander, according to myriad reports, because they can’t afford to pay him as he nears arbitration. Kemp will make $128 million over the next six years. No-go, right?
But that doesn’t mean the sides couldn’t eventually line up for a deal, provided the Dodgers can get a nice return on Kemp or Andre Ethier, who are considered their two outfielders most likely to be traded.
The Dodgers’ farm system is thin, particularly at the upper levels, where teams like the Rays -- frugal but competitive -- will be looking for players. The Dodgers are hoping to hold on to most of their prospects -- guys like infielder Corey Seager, outfielder Joc Pederson and pitchers Zach Lee and Julio Urias -- and aren’t interested in shipping out a big package of young talent, even for a player like Price.
But what if they could land a couple of well-regarded prospects for Kemp or Ethier and then use those players to land Price? It could be either part of a three-team trade or two separate transactions. It’s probably something the team has considered. To get higher-end prospects, the Dodgers likely would have to absorb more of either outfielder's salary, but that shouldn’t be a problem as the Dodgers embark on their new multibillion-dollar TV deal.
The Dodgers have fielded plenty of calls on all their outfielders. Eventually, those calls could turn into face-to-face meetings and then, according to general manager Ned Colletti, “we’ll see where it goes.” There's no reason it couldn't then turn into a different conversation.