Many teams in MLB can only dream to have and contend for a championship with the All-Star payroll that the Los Angeles Dodgers possess. Look up and down the starting lineup and pitching rotation of the Dodgers, and all one will find is some of the best players in baseball. However, the Dodgers have a very complicated situation in their outfield that could force the team to make a trade.
As any baseball fan knows, only three outfielders can play each game. The Dodgers happen to have four All-Star outfielders on their roster three-fourths of whom make no less than $15 million. The only one of these outfielders who is going nowhere is Yasiel Puig, and he happens to be the only one not making big money because he is still on his rookie contract. If Puig continues to play like a star, he will soon be getting a nice contract of his own with the Dodgers.
Therefore, since Puig is staying in Dodgertown, that leaves two spots for three All-Stars. The three remaining outfielders are Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp. When all are healthy, Kemp is the best all-around player of the three. Unfortunately, all three players have been injury-ridden over the last three seasons and have simply not lived up to their hefty contracts. Because of these enormous contracts, the Dodgers are having some trouble trying to move one of these guys. Yes, it may sound nice for a contender to have an All-Star outfielder coming off the bench, but none of these three players are getting paid big money to be a role player.
Of the three, Kemp has been the one most mentioned in trade discussions possibly because he is the youngest of the three. Kemp had a career-year in 2011 and, depending on who you speak to, should have won the NL MVP award. Since that season, Kemp’s injuries have kept his powerful bat and Gold Glove defense off the field for extended periods of time. When Kemp has been on the field, he is clearly not the player he once was. What makes Kemp’s situation even worse for the Dodgers is his eight-year, $160 million contract that he signed a few years back. Kemp still has five years left on the deal in which he is owed $21 million each year. Now you can see why teams will not give up top prospects for a guy who is getting closer to being “over the hill”.
The same applies for Crawford, who is owed $21 million over the next three seasons on his seven-year, $142 million contract. Crawford, who came over from the Boston Red Sox in 2012, has also been maligned by injuries and underachievement the last three seasons. If Kemp is getting close to being “over the hill”, consider Crawford way over the hill. However, when he is healthy, Crawford can be a lethal base-stealer and Gold Glove outfielder for the Dodgers.
Manager Don Mattingly‘s most recent outfield alignment for the Dodgers has Crawford in left, Puig in center and Kemp in right. The immediate impact of the move was the Dodgers sweeping their division foe San Francisco Giants this past weekend to reclaim control of the NL West. If things continue to be successful, do not expect much to change.
Therefore, that leaves Ethier as the odd man out. Ethier, like Kemp and Crawford, has underachieved and been injured the last few seasons after earning a nice five-year, $85 million contract. Ethier is owned only $15 million this season, but is owed $35 million combined over the next two seasons which no team wants to acquire. Ethier is a class professional, but he cannot be thrilled to be serving in a bench player role right now on this team.
The constant juggling of All-Star outfielders is going to work only for so long in Los Angeles. Obviously things may change soon for the Dodgers and Ethier could be back in the everyday lineup, but it may be time for the Dodgers to trade one of these outfielders away. The most important question still remains: Are the Dodgers willing to make a trade with Kemp, Crawford or Ethier that forces Los Angeles to keep the majority of the contract on the payroll? We could find out the answer very soon.