There are few questions that are more frequently asked in Dodger land than “Are the Dodgers going to trade Matt Kemp“? According to reports, the Dodgers are ‘trying hard’ to trade Kemp before the July 31st trade deadline.
Heard Mets trying hard to move Bartolo Colon, which isn’t exactly a surprise. Also no surprise: Dodgers trying hard to move Kemp.
— Danny Knobler (@DannyKnobler) July 22, 2014
It’s no secret that the Dodgers are motivated to trade one of their three overpaid outfielders: Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford, and Kemp. While both Ethier and Crawford have massive contracts, Kemp’s is the largest, totaling $107M through the 2019 season. Kemp has expressed interest in a trade, though only if he can return to CF, where he feels most comfortable on the field, despite being a subpar centerfielder according to analytics.
Kemp has struggled this season, even after a resurgent June, and has a slash line of .269/.331/.424 with 8 HR’s and 37 RBI’s in 356 at bats this season. In July he is batting .246 with a .591 OPS, which would be terrible but considering the other Dodgers options it doesn’t look as bad.
The problem for the Dodgers in trading Kemp is that he represents the only true right handed threat outside of Hanley Ramirez and Yasiel Puig, both of whom are down right now after being plunked on their left hands. In a vacuum, the Dodgers would prefer to trade Crawford, not only because of his contract, but because he’s the least versatile member of the outfield and has had numerous injuries over the past couple of seasons.
The Dodgers, in a perfect world, would trade Crawford and bring up Joc Pederson. Pederson and Puig would be everyday players, while Kemp and Ethier would make up the most expensive left field platoon in MLB history.
While the Dodgers seem motivated to move Kemp, Ken Rosenthal reports that the team may not be as eager as people think.
Some rival executives say the Dodgers want to move Kemp. The team certainly is open to trade offers. But at least one club that asked about Kemp – the Red Sox – did not get the sense that the Dodgers were eager to make a deal, according to major-league sources.
Three other American League teams – the Indians, Mariners and Rangers – also have called on Kemp, but none made an actual proposal, sources say.
The level of interest from each team varied – the Indians did not engage in substantive conversations with the Dodgers, and the Rangers’ interest was believed to be only cursory. The Mariners, meanwhile, consider themselves a “longshot” to land Kemp, according to a source.
Money is an obstacle toward any trade – Kemp will be owed about $7 million for the rest of the season at the July 31 non-waiver deadline, then $107 million from 2015 to ’19. The Dodgers almost certainly would need to include significant cash to facilitate any deal.
Rosenthal also reports that the reason the Dodgers would be interested in a trade, beyond getting rid of Kemp’s contract, is that there is a rift between Kemp and Manager Don Mattingly.
Other factors, however, could push the Dodgers to trade Kemp.
Manager Don Mattingly and Kemp are at odds, sources say, in part because of Kemp’s publicly stated desire to return to center field. Informed recently by reporters that Kemp views himself as a center fielder, Mattingly said, “That’s fine. He can view himself however he wants. I’m playing him in left.”
Now there are more questions to ask: Is Matt Kemp trying to force his way out of town? Is Don Mattingly calling the shots from the bench? Is Joc Pederson ready to take on the show?
The Dodgers are nearing the trade deadline and have a lot of options and even more questions. Should they call up Pederson? Should they include $70-80M with Kemp and essentially buy prospects from other teams? Does a Kemp trade make the Dodgers a worse team?
I guess we’ll all soon find out.