The Los Angeles Dodgers are not afraid to spend money as they have shown over the last two seasons. Now, it looks like they might be poised to go on another spending spree this off-season. Rumors are already percolating that the Dodgers might be poised to make a run at Jacoby Ellsbury this off-season, a report reinforced by Buster Olney.
If the Dodgers do pursue Ellsbury that would mean that Don Mattingly will have to either be really creative in finding time for Ellsbury, Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford and Yasiel Puig or GM Ned Colletti will have to find a trade partner or two and move someone like Ethier or Kemp, or both.
Kemp is, when healthy, one of the best player in the game. However, his health has been something of an issue the last couple of years. His 2011 season was good enough for him to be runner up in the NL MVP race as he posted a .324/.399/.586 slash line with 39 homers, 126 RBI and 115 runs scored. In 2011, he appeared in only 106 games but posted a .303/.367/.538 line with 23 homers, 69 RBI and 74 runs scored. This past season Kemp appeared in only 73 games and hit just .270/.328/.395 with just six home runs, 33 RBI and 35 runs scored.
Kemp will turn 30 next September so he is still in his prime and any team acquiring him would be getting some of his best years, at least in theory. They will also be getting a player who is signed through 2019 after signing an eight-year, $160 million deal after signing the deal before the 2012 season. The question is will any team surrender a package of top prospects for a player who has been as injury prone as Kemp has been the last two years?
The Dodgers also have to take into consideration Ellsbury’s injury history. Elssbury played in 134 games this year, 74 in 2012, 158 in 2011 and 18 in 2010. The Dodgers also have to take into consideration that Ellsbury’s big year, which occurred in 2011, might have been a bit of an aberration. He slugged 32 home runs, the first and only time he surpassed double-digit homers in a season. His next highest home run total in his seven-year career has been nine which he reached in 2008 and 2013.
There is no doubt Ellsbury is a dynamic player. However, the size of the contract he is sure to get in this very thin free agent market coupled with his injury history makes him a huge risk. The Dodgers already have a dynamic, injury-prone player in Kemp. Why sign Ellsbury and then attempt to trade Kemp or someone else? It just doesn’t make a lot of sense especially when you consider that Ellsbury will probably command a higher salary than Kemp is currently making. Ellsbury is also a year older than Kemp and much of Ellsbury’s game is built on speed, one of the tools that tends to go earlier in a career.
Kemp is, hands down, the better player. He will make less money than Ellsbury, is a year younger, has shown more consistency, especially in the power department and is already engrained in the Dodger culture.
Yes, Kemp plays foolishly at times and can frustrate management and the fans at times. However, Kemp, when healthy, is the better player than Ellsbury when healthy. The Dodgers would be better off passing on Ellsbury and filling in the actual holes on the team like in the bullpen, middle infield and depth at the back end of the rotation.