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MLB Trade Rumors: Matt Kemp’s Hefty Contract Could Keep Him In L.A.

The Los Angeles Dodgers are trying to move Matt Kemp by the MLB trade deadline but his $107 million salary over the next five years is scaring everyone off.

Matt Kemp
Matt Kemp

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

With an abundance of outfielders, the Los Angeles Dodgers could afford to deal Matt Kemp in advance of Major League Baseball’s trade deadline. Despite interest by several teams, however, that may not happen.

Kemp is known to be on the radar of quite a few teams. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal identified at least four recently, in fact — the Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, Texas Rangers, and Seattle Mariners.

Los Angeles is largely shopping him because of a glut of talent in the outfield. He was a highly-productive player as recently as two years ago and is still on the right side of 30. Teams are interested. So why does it seem like no deal for the former All-Star and MVP candidate is forthcoming?

His contract.

Kemp’s deal is paying him a boatload of money – for a very long time.

Rosenthal mentions his strained relationship with manager Don Mattingly as a thing that may scare teams away, but the more significant issue is his contract. The outfielder is making $21 million this season, but that’s hardly the worst of it. Not only does that figure jump slightly in 2015 to $21.5 million, but he’s owed that same amount in each season from 2015 – 2019. Add it all up, and Kemp still has $107 million coming his way.

As I mentioned, Kemp has not yet reached 30 yet. The deal, actually, will end while he’s still a reasonable 34 years old. For what he’s done recently, however, that number is too high to scare many teams off.

In 2013 and 2014, Kemp is batting a manageable .272, but his 14 home runs over that time isn’t quite cutting it for a corner outfielder making that kind of money. Even taking into consideration that he has missed a lot of games and played only part-time over that stretch (he has approximately 600 at-bats in total), his power numbers aren’t good enough to justify his monster salary. Kemp’s OPS, at .906 in 2012, has dropped off considerably to only .723 last year and .767 this season. His WAR was solid at 3.7 in 2012 but this season is down to a meager 1.3.

Kemp is also not as good defensively as he’s been in the past. A two-time gold glove performer in the outfield, Kemp is making more errors and has seen his fielding percentage significantly drop in 2013 and 2014. Despite playing less, his five errors last year tied his career high and in 2014, he already has five. All around, he just isn’t the same player he was even a couple of years ago.

Los Angeles has two options, really. They aren’t going to find a team willing to fork over the $107 million still owed to Kemp, so they can work out a deal and pay a significant portion of his salary if they’re insistent upon trading him. The flipside is, realizing that taking on too much of his salary isn’t that attractive of an option, they simply hang onto him and hope he increases his trade value down the road. In addition, Kemp isn’t likely to fetch top talent in return, so in the end it may just be as easy to keep him.

With so many options in the outfield including Yasiel Puig, Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier, and Scott Van Slyke, the Dodgers can do without Kemp. The real problem, though, is finding a taker willing to help pay his salary for the next five years.

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