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Thursday, May 29, 2014
Mariners should go after Matt Kemp

By David Schoenfield

A week ago, the Dodgers finally admitted what many have realized for some time now: Matt Kemp is no longer a center fielder. So he spent a few days working on playing left field and started there on Wednesday for the first time since 2006. He's back in there for Thursday night's game against the Pirates. (It helps that Carl Crawford conveniently landed on the disabled list with a sprained ankle.)

"It's a little different, but I'm just excited to be able to go out and play," Kemp told ESPN LA's Mark Saxon. "The angles and slices and all that are different, but I'll figure it out. I just have to go get the ball wherever they slice them. I think I'm still a pretty good athlete, so I think I'll be OK."

Still, it's an uncomfortable situation for Don Mattingly and the Dodgers. It's perhaps telling that Kemp gave word that he was ready to play left not to Mattingly but to first-base coach Davey Lopes. Something tells me Mattingly and Kemp aren't having beers together after games these days.

Kemp is hitting .255/.317/.438 and there's little doubt that if he was hitting like he did in his MVP runner-up season of 2011 Mattingly would live with his deficiencies on defense. But he isn't and they can't and Andre Ethier gets the time in center for now and while Kemp is going to say all the right things you know he isn't the happiest of ballplayers these days.

So, should the Dodgers trade Kemp? It makes a lot of sense and the Mariners are the team that should take a chance that Kemp, who turns 30 in September, still has a lot of good baseball left in him. Here's why:

1. Kemp isn't happy.

2. The Dodgers have other outfielders. A Crawford/Scott Van Slyke platoon in left would give you about the same production that Kemp has delivered so far.

3. At some point, the Dodgers need to clear room for Joc Pederson, who is currently tearing apart the Pacific Coast League. They don't need to rush him but it's clear he doesn't need to spend much more time down there.

4. Kemp is owed $107 million on the five years left on his contract after this season (he's making $21 million this season).

5. Even then, he's more tradable than Crawford or Ethier.

6. While the Dodgers are loaded with cash, clearing Kemp's salary would open some space to re-sign Hanley Ramirez, or sign Max Scherzer or J.J. Hardy, or save up for 2016 (Matt Wieters, Jason Heyward, Justin Upton) or 2017 (Giancarlo Stanton, Carlos Gomez, Stephen Strasburg).

7. Not that Kemp is a clubhouse cancer, but there can't be great karma among the Dodgers' outfielders right now.

8. The Mariners need offense. They entered Thursday tied for 11th in the American League in runs per game.

9. They especially need a right-handed-hitting corner outfielder.

10. They have payroll flexibility -- only Robinson Cano and Felix Hernandez are signed to long-term contracts.

11. They have a hard time getting players to come to Seattle. They had to grossly overpay Cano to get him to the Northwest, but it's hard to get free agent hitters to go there.

12. There is risk with Kemp, but what do the Mariners have to lose? They haven't been relevant in years, they're 10th in the AL in attendance and the farm system has been a systemic failure for a long time, especially in producing hitters. They don't have any hitters in the upper minors right now that look ready to contribute. No, Jesus Montero doesn't count.

13. The Mariners are 26-26, so they're right there in the parity-riddled AL, and just one of five AL teams with a positive run differential.

14. They could probably get the Dodgers to chip in a third or so of that remaining $107 million, so you'd be looking at paying Kemp around $14 million per season. He only needs to be a 2-WAR player to justify that expense.

15. Why not?