A Potential Trade Brewing with Matt Kemp?
In December, Matt Kemp's agent, Dave Stewart, was quoted saying, "something is brewing", referring to trade talks surrounding his client. Dodgers general manager, Ned Colletti, has already stated that they will listen to all offers for his outfielder.
The Red Sox have supposedly talked with the Dodgers about a possible trade for Kemp, but the discussions have not been serious. Many teams would be interested in acquiring the 2012 National League MVP runner up, but what is he worth?
In his 8-year career, Kemp has had 3 seasons with 20 or more home runs and in 5 seasons he posted a batting average of .290 or better. But after leading the National league in home runs in 2011 and arguably being robbed of an MVP, Kemp has had a tough time staying on the field. In 2012 he had a solid season, batting .303, and hitting 23 home runs, but he missed a chunk of the season due to several injuries (shoulder, hamstring, and both knees). In 2013 he batted .270, recorded 6 home runs, and only played 73 games, once again due to injuries (shoulder, ankle, hamstring).
Should They Do It?
It makes sense for the Dodgers to trade him. At the age of 29, Kemp should still be in the prime of his career, and his huge current trade value will only go down from here. Their outfield already consists of Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford, and the young Yasiel Puig, so they don’t require a player like Kemp to have an above average outfield both offensively and defensively. Crawford and Ethier are both signed until 2017 and Puig is signed until 2018.
Kemp is already having injury problems, and he still has 6 more years on his contract. The Dodgers are scheduled to pay him $130M through 2014-19. He will be 34 when his contract ends. Hamstrings, shoulders, and ankles don't get stronger when a player turns 30, they get weaker. Look at players like A-Rod, or Albert Pujols, whose recurring injuries after the age of 30 have spelled big declines.
One possible trade option would be Cliff Lee. Lee is be getting paid $25M this year and is signed through 2015. This trade actually works well for both teams as the Dodgers need one more quality pitcher, and the Phillies need young offensive talent. With Ryan Howard starting to decline, and Chase Utley in his mid 30’s, they need a new face of their franchise and Kemp could be that guy.
The Dodgers are also a team that is built to win right now. They went to the NLCS last year even without Matt Kemp. Replacing him with a solid starting pitcher could lift them to the World Series.
Imagine a team with a playoff rotation consisting of Clayton Kershaw (2013 ERA 1.83), Zack Greinke (2013 ERA 2.63), and Cliff Lee (2013 ERA 2.86), and a starting lineup that consists of Yasiel Puig, Carl Crawford, Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, and Andre Ethier. Scary stuff.
It’s a shame that a 29-year-old player, only 2 years removed from a MVP caliber season, is a possible trade option for a 35-year-old pitcher. Maybe it would be in the Dodgers best interest to actually wait because if Kemp can get off to a hot start in 2014, his trade value could shoot up. He is fully capable of going on a tear in the spring, which would allow the Dodgers to trade him for a richer package of players and picks.
Another possible destination for Kemp is Arlington. The Rangers have an abundance of upper level minor league players who would be valuable trade assets. While this trade makes more sense for a rebuilding team, the Dodgers have enough on their roster even without Kemp to contend right now, as last year showed. It's about asset management, and a piece received from Texas could be used to acquire that final piece that can produce now and help win in 2014.
The success of Matt Kemp, the Dodgers, and any team looking to trade for him, relies on his health. If he hypothetically avoids any major injuries for the rest of his contract, he would be an asset to any team, but we'll see whether that becomes a reality or not in the coming months.