Ken Rosenthal stirred up the pot on Wednesday night by tweeting out this little ditty in regards to Dodger outfielder Matt Kemp:
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 17, 2014
“Whatever they want to do we’re favorable to, as long as it gives him an opportunity to play every day,” Stewart said. “He’d like to eventually go back to center field. He’s not opposed to right or left. But his hope at some point is to get back to center.”
First of all Kemp’s agent Dave Stewart has been known to spout his mouth off about the players he represents, and so anything that he says isn’t necessarily a direct quote or sentiment from Kemp himself. Although I’m not surprised this situation is upon us since Kemp was none too happy about being shifted from center field to left field this season.
According to Stewart, Kemp wants to play center field again on an everyday basis. Even though Matt has been playing left field in an everyday role since Carl Crawford nearly snapped his ankle in half, it seems like Kemp is still bitter about being uprooted from center field.
I can’t blame the long-time Dodger from being upset in regards to being publically called out on his visibly weak defense by
manager Don Mattingly. Even though it was not news to anyone that Kemp’s defense in center was never sharp, the way Mattingly handled the situation could have been done in a more dignified manner. Within weeks of Mattingly announcing that Kemp was to be his starting center fielder, the skipper promptly backtracked and ultimately moved Kemp out of center in favor of Andre Ethier. Ethier played an admirable center field in 2013 when Kemp was riddled with injury, but we have seen Ethier regress in defense and offense this year leaving the notion that Kemp is no longer a viable option in center a bit of a head scratcher given the options the Dodgers have right now.
The question which is the most important in this Kemp matter is whether a trade would benefit the Dodgers. An unhappy Kemp is not going to bode well in the clubhouse or on the field for the Dodgers. If Matt does in fact desire to be traded, and the Dodgers can get some salary relief and or some talented players in return, then why not listen to offers (if there are any). It’s pretty clear that the Dodgers have all but moved on from Kemp being their everyday center fielder, so should the Dodgers move on from Matt Kemp?
Kemp was once the franchise player for Los Angeles, and a M.V.P. caliber player. Frank McCourt left Dodgertown by cementing Kemp’s contract and leaving the Dodgers with an 8-year $160 million contract on their hands which makes moving Kemp (like Carl Crawford) that much tougher. Not only is Kemp’s contract inked through 2019, but Kemp now has a long list of injuries which have zapped him of his speed making his weak defense in center field all more apparent. The Dodgers would most likely have to eat a big portion of Kemp’s contract with cash considerations if they move him, which has made Andre Ethier a much more likely candidate for a trade.
Rumors surrounding the Dodgers trading Kemp and Ethier have been swirling for what seems like years now. I never thought they would trade Ethier since Kemp had been sidelined for so long and Ethier is more versatile and able to play all three outfield positions. With five capable outfielders on the roster now (and a certain young stud outfielder waiting in the wings), the opportune time for the Dodgers to trade one of their outfielders seems to be perfect right now. Joc Pederson hit a homerun in the Triple-A All-Star Game on Wednesday, and fans are clamoring to see Joc make his debut in Blue.
When Mattingly began to start Scott Van Slyke in center field on a regular basis (he’s played 17 games this season in center), I knew the end was near. SVS has played commendably this season, yet his time in center field only highlights the big problem the Dodgers have in not having a true center fielder. Even by trading Kemp or Ethier or Crawford, the Dodgers still don’t have a solid center fielder on their roster (unless a trade includes one of course). Joc Pederson has started 67 games in center field for the Triple-A Isotopes this season, but even he has been scouted as a better corner outfielder than center fielder. Even so, Joc in center would be the best option the Dodgers have right now barring a trade for a center fielder.
Kemp’s days in center field for the Dodgers are all but over. Sadly that may mean that Kemp’s days in a Dodger uniform are
numbered as well. Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier have been two of my favorite Dodgers for many years now, and seeing The Bison in a Rays uniform…I mean a different uniform would break my heart. Earlier in the season when Kemp and Ethier hit back-to-back base hits it really brought me back to the good old days.
I’d like to argue that Kemp still has value to this team. He’s hitting .269/.330/.430 with 8 homeruns and 35 RBIs in 86 games. His offense has come around, and I’ve noticed that Kemp’s defense in left field has improved since his adventurous times in center field earlier this year. It looks as though Kemp has began to adjust to his surgically repaired ankle. While Matty may not ever be the same player we adored in 2011, he isn’t chopped liver either. We have to accept that he is a different player now. Perhaps that’s been the hardest thing for Matt to accept himself. Instead of resenting his move to left field and calling for his manager to return him to center, he should embrace the fact that he is still playing every day in the Majors after being disabled for so long.
With Hanley Ramirez once again riddled with numerous injuries and in a contract year, losing Matt Kemp’s right-handed bat would be a felt loss. A healthy and happy Matt Kemp is a worthwhile piece of this team.
The fact is even if he is traded, Kemp may not find himself in center field with his new team. Grumbling about the past will not move you forward to the future which may include a visit to the World Series if things go right for the Dodgers. I always imagined Matt Kemp being a big part of a Dodger World Series championship, and his sole focus should be on that ultimate goal as well.
That being said, the priority should be the team’s overall strength. If that means trading Kemp to get someone like David Price, I would have to accept that Beastmode might have to move on to Tampa Bay. Former Dodger James Loney has already made a home in Tampa Bay.
I anticipate the Dodgers making a move this trade season in order to bolster their bullpen, and one of their outfielders seems to be the likely trade candidate if they can work something out with their big contracts. Dave Stewart may have just riled up the masses, but this Matt Kemp fan is still hoping for a few more Bison Blasts.