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Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Matt Kemp's agent optimistic for deal

By Tony Jackson
ESPNLosAngeles.com

The agent for Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder and National League Most Valuable Player candidate Matt Kemp said Wednesday that talks on a long-term contract extension for his client are moving in a positive direction and that he is optimistic an agreement will be reached.

Dave Stewart, Kemp's San Diego-based agent and himself a former Dodgers pitcher, said his discussions with Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti have been positive and productive.

"I don't think that it's going to be difficult, I really don't," Stewart said. "I think we should be able to come to something. I have talked with Ned on a few occasions. We have covered some ground, and hopefully, we will be able to put this thing to bed soon."

Colletti also characterized the negotiations as moving forward.

"We have had some constructive conversations," Colletti said. "Those conversations have been a little more substantive of late."

Colletti cautioned against reading too much into that, saying no agreement was imminent. Clearly, though, signing Kemp to a long-term deal sometime this winter -- and before Kemp becomes eligible for free agency after the 2012 season -- is a high priority for the Dodgers.

"This is obviously going to be cordial," Stewart said of the negotiations. "I have known Ned for 30 years, and that is the easy part of it. The tough part is trying to figure out exactly where Matt sits and how I get them to see what I see."

What the Dodgers saw in 2011 was a career season for Kemp, who led the NL in home runs (39) and RBIs (126), made a run at becoming the majors' first Triple Crown winner in 44 years before finishing third in the NL in hitting (.324) and also stole 40 bases, leaving him a home run shy of becoming the fifth player in big league history to join the 40/40 club.

Kemp will find out in a couple of weeks whether those numbers are good enough to garner his first MVP award, although already this offseason he has won his second career Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards. He also was a first-time All-Star in 2011.

In order to come to terms on a new deal, the Dodgers will have to buy Kemp out of his final winter of arbitration eligibility -- through that process, he would stand get a massive raise off the $7.1 million he earned in 2011, the final season of what originally was a two-year, $10.95 million deal that ballooned to $11.1 million with incentives -- and his first winter of free agency. It isn't clear what length of contract Kemp is seeking, but the Dodgers historically have been loathe, with an occasional exception, to sign players to deals of longer than three years during the six years that Colletti has been in charge.

Meanwhile, Stewart said he is getting no sense that the fact Dodgers owner Frank McCourt has put the team up for sale, throwing the player-payroll budget for next season into question, will have any bearing on negotiations on a possible new deal for Kemp.

"I have said it from the start and I will repeat it again, I don't think Ned would be approaching us about doing something if he wasn't capable of finishing this thing off," Stewart said. "We haven't even thought about it. Whenever I talk to Matt about the possibility of remaining with the Dodgers for a long period of time, he is happy about the idea of doing that. So we will just push forward and try to get this to a place where it is comfortable for him and for the Dodgers."

Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.