The MLB hot stove has been sizzling this off-season. Huge deals have gone down all around the league from the Prince Fielder/Ian Kinsler trade to the Mariners snagging Robinson Cano for 10 years/$240 million. All the while, people have been waiting for the team with the biggest pockets in baseball to make a big move.
That hasn’t happened yet. However, the rumor mill has made it seem that the Los Angeles Dodgers are destined to trade one of their four star outfielders. Most recently, things got so bad that Matt Kemp’s agent, Dave Stewart, even went so far as to say he expected Kemp to be traded. Dodgers GM Ned Colletti came out and promptly put out that fire, saying the team had no intentions of trading Kemp this winter.
Allow me to translate that for you: the Dodgers aren’t actively shopping Matt Kemp, nor any outfielder for that matter, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t listening to offers. If you’ve watched the movie Moneyball, you know that GMs constantly call other GMs to inquire about the availability of guys, most of the time nothing comes of those discussions. Although the framework of future deals can be laid this way, as the famous Dodgers/Red Sox 2012 trade was.
Over time, Colletti has gained a reputation as one of baseball’s shrewdest GM’s. He’s made big money moves for All-Star players and he’s found jewels in the rough via reclamation projects. So, let’s face it, Colletti isn’t shipping out one of his prized outfielders if it’s not for a good deal.
The team would love to continue to replenish its farm system and trading one of the outfielders, especially Kemp, could bring back that haul. However, in today’s economic environment, teams have been more and more reluctant to trade young, controllable assets for expensive, long-term contracts. We’re to the point now, where teams are even reluctant to sign free agents because they would have to cede a draft pick to the team that free agent came from if he was extended a qualifying offer. This is why the Dodgers signing Dan Haren to a one-year, $10 million deal is amazing, in comparison to Ricky Nolasco receiving four years, $49 million from the Minnesota Twins or Jason Vargas getting four years, $32 million from Kansas City.
That’s the economics of baseball, but now let’s look at all the team reasons why the Dodgers would be prudent to hold on to all of their outfielders.
First and foremost is health. Everyone wondered what the Dodgers would do once they had four healthy outfielders, but that scenario never developed as none of the Dodgers four outfielders were ever healthy at one time last season.
The struggles of Kemp over the past couple of years have been well chronicled. Kemp played in only 73 games in 2013 and he will be coming off ankle and shoulder surgeries. Kemp is still in his walking boot and his shoulder surgery appears to have been a success, so it’s tough for the Dodgers to pencil in the 29-year-old outfielder for all 162 games. However, still in his prime and with all of the talent in the world, a healthy Kemp could easily regain his MVP form of just two years ago. A healthy Kemp would give the Dodgers murderers’ row and he would be a prime candidate to come back and haunt the Dodgers for years to come if he’s traded.
Next would be Andre Ethier. While he’s a solid major league player, Ethier endeared himself to fans and pundits last year as he successfully manned center field for most of the season. Prior to the season, as the legend of Yasiel Puig began to grow, it was widely considered that Ethier would be the odd man out and traded during the season. However, with Kemp never available and Carl Crawford also needing regular rest, Ethier became the Dodgers most dependable outfielder in 2013.