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Are Matt Kemp’s days as a regular center fielder numbered?

May 24, 2014, 11:36 AM EDT

Matt Kemp AP AP

Andre Ethier got the start over Matt Kemp in center field for last night’s game against the Phillies. It could signal the end of Kemp’s days as a regular center fielder.

Coming off ankle surgery, Kemp’s range has been noticeably diminished this season. There were a number of examples of this during the team’s recent series against the Mets. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said after Thursday’s game that Kemp “doesn’t look the same” and lacks the “burst” that he used to have.

According to Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register, Mattingly talked privately with Kemp on Friday to discuss the situation. It’s unclear how the playing time will shake out in the Dodgers’ outfield, but Mattingly told reporters that “we need to get better there” and that they are “looking at all options.”

As for Kemp, he acknowledged that his defense needs to improve and that his ankle has been a factor:

“Do I feel the same? Man, I just need to play better defense,” Kemp said. “Ain’t no ‘burst’ or anything like that.

“I wish I was explosive as I could be in the past. I have good days and bad days. Some days my ankle is looser than other days. Some days it’s a little stiff. I’m not hurt or anything. But you have those good days and bad days. That’s true for any baseball player.

“Shoot – I wish I could go out there and steal 100 million bases like I used to. But like I said some days my legs – I don’t feel it as far as being loose. But the more I play, the more it gets better and better. I’m happy about that.”

Per Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times, Kemp is out of the lineup again today, with Ethier getting another start in center field.

  1. El Pollo Loco - May 24, 2014 at 11:42 AM

    Good luck trading him

  2. jburk003 - May 24, 2014 at 11:46 AM

    But wait, they are supposed to be in first place-not third… I thought they had the highest $$$ payroll in baseball??

    • apkyletexas - May 24, 2014 at 1:00 PM

      And just a week ago we were reading that they had too many good outfielders. Now? Not so much I guess.

    • kingscourt25 - May 24, 2014 at 1:29 PM

      Ah yes, celebrating division titles in May

    • kkkershaw22 - May 24, 2014 at 3:25 PM

      Just because they have a high payroll doesn’t mean they have to win every game, every team has talent, it’s not how you start is how you finish boy

  3. crillbill - May 24, 2014 at 12:18 PM

    Time to bring up Joc

    • kaleidoscopictreats - May 24, 2014 at 2:05 PM

      Is it?

      For the time being it seems like the thing to do is slide Puig over to center, move Kemp over to right, and keep Crawford in left. There’s plenty of time later to make more drastic changes.

  4. gothapotamus90210 - May 24, 2014 at 12:55 PM

    Kemp is owed ~$122M through 2019 when he’ll be 35 (including ~$15M for the rest of 2014). While his 2014 OPS+ is 119, the Dodgers would probably have to sell quite low on him due his history of injuries and even if healthy, with his current level of production, most teams would not value him as a $21M/season player.

    The Dodgers will probably keep playing musical chairs with their OFers this season in hopes Kemp stays healthy and regains trade value. Right now I think they’d need to kick in at least $45M of the $122M owed to him.

    Although, I’m not sure it’s worthwhile for them to see if Kemp can rebuild value. Under the assumption they’d need to eat $45M right now, let’s say he plays 140 games with an OPS+ of 119. They will have paid him the remaining $15M from this season, and he will be owed $107M for remainder of contract. I would think they’d still need to kick in at least $22M to make it a 5/$85M commitment to the acquiring team. In this scenario, they will have paid $37M, only saving $8M vs. trading him now [this is ignoring his 2014 production vs. Either/Peterson/Crawford in the lineup].

    However, if he suffers another injury, he’d potentially be untradeable, or at the very least, making the Dodgers eat considerably more than $45M to trade him.

    For a team like the Dodgers with deep pockets, I don’t see the $8M upside being worth it vs. the risk if he goes bust.

  5. notsofast10 - May 24, 2014 at 1:01 PM

    Major surgeries usually need time for the player to play and recover to 100%, Kemp may not be who he was right now but I would not give up on him making it back to where he was for another year or so.

    • mkprz - May 24, 2014 at 3:51 PM

      The ankle and knees are the body’s weakest link.
      Healing of those parts and putting full force on them takes time.
      Doctors just put the parts together and aren’t experts on using them.
      If you’ve never been in MLB level ball, then it’s hard to speak on healing injuries.

      • sportsfan18 - May 24, 2014 at 8:54 PM

        But his manager CAN speak to both of those things, playing MLB and dealing and recovering from injuries as Donnie Baseball was an MVP and he could pick em at first base as he won 9 Gold Gloves…

        Donnie’s back did him in…

        Just as Kemp’s injuries might be doing him in…

        Donnie understands what Kemp is feeling, going through, being a top player and then having his body betray him…

  6. echech88 - May 24, 2014 at 2:04 PM

    He’ll end up getting traded to a team in a hitters park to play a corner spot and probably be a huge bargain (since Dodgers will be eating money for him to go away)

    • mkprz - May 24, 2014 at 3:53 PM

      The Dodgers can trade him and when he is finally healed physically and mentally, he will once again be the player he is.
      The Dodges would have made another bad trade.

  7. mattymarts17 - May 24, 2014 at 2:42 PM

    Welcome to post PED baseball! Where players actually need TIME to recover from significant injuries. No problem letting him get rest and try a corner until he fully recovers.

  8. paperlions - May 24, 2014 at 3:06 PM

    Kemp hasn’t been a good defensive CF since long before his ankle surgery. Now instead of below average, he’s horrible. He’s also about to turn 30 yrs old. He’ll probably have some solid years as a hitter. But the player he was in 2011 is probably long gone. Age and injuries catch up to everyone.

  9. mkprz - May 24, 2014 at 3:48 PM

    It’s only natural to be weary of the ankle after his injury. It just happens.
    Once he can trust his healed ankle to perform as normal, he will play as he normally does.
    Professional level performance requires 100%.
    Many who’ve never played organized sports and only watch and write about it, cannot understand how mush strain the ankles and knees get.
    Most writers are those who only write and watch and have never played.

  10. nottinghamforest13 - May 24, 2014 at 5:40 PM

    Another hot dog w/ a me first attitude whose chickens have come home to roost.

    • stercuilus65 - May 24, 2014 at 10:19 PM

      Another bitter whiny couch potato throwing shots and enjoying the trials of his superiors.Beware, Karma is a bitch, bitch.

    • stercuilus65 - May 24, 2014 at 10:21 PM

      And you stealing 7.35 an hour…

  11. maritime85 - May 24, 2014 at 5:51 PM

    Whats with this guy?

  12. tuberippin - May 24, 2014 at 8:06 PM

    “Shoot – I wish I could go out there and steal 100 million bases like I used to.”

    Well for what it’s worth, you’re currently stealing a little over 100 million dollars.

    • stercuilus65 - May 24, 2014 at 10:23 PM

      And you are stealing 7.35 an hour…

      • tuberippin - May 25, 2014 at 4:16 AM

        Meh, about double that. Still not great, but ya gotta make due while getting a Master’s degree, yknow?

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