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$160 million for Matt Kemp sounds about right

Nov 14, 2011, 6:00 PM EDT

Matt Kemp Getty Images

One can debate whether Matt Kemp is the game’s best outfielder, but the truth is the Dodgers pretty much had to make him the game’s highest-paid outfielder to keep him beyond 2012. The eight-year, $160 million contract he reportedly agreed to Monday is tied for the largest ever given to an outfielder.

Manny Ramirez’s late-2000 deal with the Red Sox, worth that same amount, had been the gold standard for outfielders. Technically, though, Kemp won’t be the game’s highest-paid outfielder, at least not right away. Carl Crawford got $142 million for seven years from the Red Sox last winter, giving him an annual salary of $20.29 million. Ryan Braun will make $21 million per year from 2016-20 under the terms of the extension he agreed to in April.

Kemp still has one year of arbitration left, so his deal rates a little better than Crawford’s. The guess is that he would have made around $16 million next year through arbitration, and if that’s the case, he’s selling his first seven free agent years for $144 million.

So, this would seem to rate as a pretty good deal for both sides. Had Kemp turned in another year like his 2011 next season, there’s no doubt that he would have topped this contract in free agency. However, this protects him if he does falter somewhat. And the truth is that he loves playing in L.A. and had no real interest in leaving.

For the Dodgers, any eight-year deal comes with substantial risk. Kemp, though, is just 27 and he’s been exceptionally durable to date. While he’ll probably spend the second half of the deal in an outfield corner, he’s about as safe of a long-term signing as there is in the game.

  1. SmackSaw - Nov 14, 2011 at 6:15 PM

    Now they need someone to hit behind him…and in front of him. That and lock down Kershaw.

    • Francisco (FC) - Nov 14, 2011 at 8:03 PM

      Now they need someone to buy the Dodgers.

  2. 5thbase - Nov 14, 2011 at 6:41 PM

    I like it when players with a history of playing when they feel like it get massive contracts before they can “get away”. No doubt about the kid’s talent, but whereas he would probably be a HOF candidate if he played out his career on a string of 1-year contracts, with this fat and long contract I bet I won’t even remember who he was 20 years from now. I bet he never again comes close to the numbers he put up this year.

  3. tomlotter1948 - Nov 14, 2011 at 6:56 PM

    Josh, if kemp gets this kind of a contract, it seems like a bargain…..Fielder can’t hold his jock, so what is he worth, surely much less than that!!!

  4. eagles512 - Nov 14, 2011 at 7:26 PM

    How is a guy with one big year and work ethic issues about as safe a long term option as you can get?

    • paperlions - Nov 14, 2011 at 8:21 PM

      I was wondering that too…14 months ago Kemp was acting like he had no interest in playing baseball…about as apathetic a performance as you’ll ever see in the field or at the plate…suddenly one good season later an 8 yr deal for $160M seems like a safe bet? Ok.

      • 5thbase - Nov 15, 2011 at 2:40 PM

        I like how everyone stating the obvious in this thread is getting voted down. If you Dodger fans are happy about hanging the next decade on a guy who’s had problems with self motivation in the past then good for you.

        I personally like the deal. It’s Andruw Jones part two (only much longer term) and will keep the Dodgers at or near the bottom of the NL West.

  5. mondzy805 - Nov 15, 2011 at 12:00 AM

    We need this. Kershaw, your next. Go Blue.

  6. Mark - Nov 15, 2011 at 8:28 AM

    Vernon Wells before the 06 monster season: 285/330/481, 108 OPS+
    Matt Kemp before his monster 2011 season: 285/336/472, 113 OPS+

    I don’t know, I don’t think 160M sounds right at all for Kemp. Both guys were 26 after they were extended. This is a crazy deal. I can’t believe the Dodgers did this. Unless Kemp plays like he did last year it goes down as one of the worst deals of all time.

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