Can the pitching-rich Los Angeles Dodgers get richer? With an asset like Matt Kemp in play, GM Ned Colletti didn’t rule it out categorically, which is as good as saying that he’ll give it his best shot.
Finding the right deal, however, won’t be too straightforward. See, you could say that the center fielder is something of a complicated asset in that he’s tied down to what was a deal to make him the face of the franchise not too long ago. A -0.4 fWAR season will change that in a hurry, however, and it’s not like Kemp’s health issues over the last couple of years will help the situation further.
This is not to say that he’s unmovable, of course; but simply that the Dodgers’ dance partners are limited, especially if they’re hoping to get top-of-the rotation talent back in return.
Dodgers fans can at least rule out a trade for Tampa Bay Rays ace David Price with Kemp at the core. Aside from the fact that Kemp is arguably more risky of an asset at this point, there’s simply no way that the Rays will take on even half of his remaining $128 million salary through the 2019 season. There is a reason why they’re forced to moved Price, you know?
So should the Dodgers’ center fielder be moved for an arm, you’d have to figure that it’d be to a team who can handle the contract with the requisite arm to send back … and well, there aren’t not too many of those around the league.
Could the Los Angeles Angels be in play? On paper, Kemp would probably fit in as a corner infielder there, pushing back the full-time arrival or Kole Calhoun of moving Josh Hamilton to more of a DH role. Then again, the Dodgers aren’t about to dump what they could still try to sell as a 40-40 candidate with 8.0 fWAR upside to their in-city rivals, especially when the Angels just don’t have that top arm that they’d be willing to give up.
Besides, the Halos have their own problems with big-contract athletes underperforming, so it’s fair to say that they aren’t a fit.
The same could be said about the New York Yankees, who probably wouldn’t mind the money thing as they could trade Brett Gardner for an arm … but therein lies the problem with that would go back to L.A. The Chicago Cubs might be an interesting play as they could be looking for a big bat and have Jeff Samardzija, but they’re not exactly in a good position to make a big-name acquisition while rebuilding, so Shark will more likely be traded for a package of top prospects.
To find a decent fit of a big-market team that might be looking to shed some top pitching, the Dodgers would have to look all the way to the NL East at the Philadelphia Phillies.
Is there a more ideal trade partner for the Dodgers at this point, at least one paper? Philadelphia has not just one, but two top-tier lefty arms they might potentially move. If it wasn’t so apparent that they’re (maybe?) trying to shed salary, you’d think a deal would have been done between the two teams already. Then again, after signing Marlon Byrd, who knows what Ruben Amaro Jr. is thinking?
A Kemp-Cole Hamels trade at this point would probably favor the Dodgers, as it would give them a Phillies-esque trio of aces at the top of their rotation. If Hyun-Jin Ryu is the no. four pitcher, Los Angeles won’t have much to worry about on the mound. Money-wise, both contracts are similar, making it an even trade in dollars that would suit both teams’ needs — provided the Phillies figure out what to do with their outfield.
But if the team were to fancy a bit more financial freedom, then a trade for Cliff Lee isn’t exactly a bad consolation prize. He’s more expensive yearly, but comes with less commitment. Given the age of Lee and Kemp’s last two seasons, you’d think that the Phillies would prefer this deal as both teams would be taking on similar amounts of risks.
In short, though it might not be easy, there is a deal to be made here; and while Amaro still appears to be on the fence about it, there’s no better time for the Dodgers to at least pick up the phone.