Assessing Matt Kemp

Kemp getty 2 300x200 Assessing Matt KempTrade rumors have the Seattle Mariners connected with Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp. Kemp has six years remaining on an eight-year, $160 million deal. A trade for him would likely involve the Mariners throwing in some solid prospects in exchange for the Dodgers eating some of Kemp’s contract. This would be a significant move for the Mariners. The multi-tooled star comes with some major concerns, however.

In 2011, Kemp was one of the best players in baseball. After a disappointing 2010 season where he had a slash line of .249/.310/.450 with an fWAR of 0.1, Kemp produced a monster .324/.399/.586 line with a 168 wRC+ and 8.4 fWAR. He narrowly missed the fifth 40-40 season in baseball history, falling just one home run short.

The 2012 season was less kind to him. After playing at least 155 games in each season from 2008-11, Kemp missed 56 games with two trips to the disabled list related to a pulled hamstring. Additionally, he played through shoulder and knee pain after crashing into the outfield wall in late August. When he was on the field, Kemp managed a .303/.367/.538 line with a 146 wRC+ and 3.2 fWAR. In the offseason, Kemp had surgery on his shoulder.

His injury woes continued in 2013, as the surgically repaired shoulder bothered him along with his hamstring. As if that wasn’t enough, he injured his ankle on a play at the plate against the Washington Nationals in July. All told, Kemp played in just 73 games, posting a .270/.328/.395 line with a 103 wRC+ and -0.4 fWAR. The shoulder injury had a big impact on Kemp’s power production as he had a career-low ISO of .125, more than a 100 point drop from the previous year. For the second straight year, he stole just nine bases.

Given his injury history and inconsistent production, what kind of performance can the Mariners expect from Kemp?

From 2006 to the first half of 2012, Kemp totaled 19.8 fWAR. Since the second half of 2012 to the present, Kemp has been roughly a replacement-level player. In 595 plate appearances, he’s produced just 0.8 fWAR.

Of course, Kemp was a replacement-level player over the course of 668 plate appearances in 2010, and the next year he produced at an MVP level. However, that Matt Kemp was two years younger and had not suffered through a string of serious injuries. While Kemp has managed decent, though far from elite, production with the bat since 2012, his defense and baserunning have suffered greatly. Going forward, it’s a safe assumption that Kemp will not steal the 32 bases he averaged from 2008-11.

Furthermore, it’s probably unrealistic to expect Kemp to play center field on a regular basis. Defensive metrics have never loved Kemp, but 2013 was his worst year. According to UZR, he cost the Dodgers 16 runs in center despite playing just 73 games. DRS paints a similar picture of his defensive abilities.

What remains is a bat-first corner outfielder who may have trouble regaining his power stroke. As those who have watched Adrian Gonzalez may have surmised, shoulder surgeries are not kind to power hitters. The Steamer projection calls for a .271/.342/.464 line from Kemp in 2014, with a 125 wRC+ and 2.5 fWAR. He still has offensive ability, but I’d be shocked if Kemp can return to anything close to his 2011 form.

Trading for Matt Kemp is a flashy move, but it’s unlikely to bring much more than a solid player, not a star, and one that may come as a burden to the payroll, too.

Written by Chris Moran

Moran Chris3 Assessing Matt Kemp

Chris Moran is a second-year law student and assistant baseball coach at Washington University in St .Louis. He graduated from Wheaton College where he wore the tools of ignorance for the baseball team. Follow him on Twitter @hangingslurves

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23 comments on “Assessing Matt Kemp

  1. mgvernon says:

    Absolutely agree, Kemp is a major disappointment risk. Why raise our kids to see others enjoy them?

  2. JerryEK says:

    Shit! 10yrs/$240. That’s a lot of money.

  3. rotoenquire says:

    Tanaka is a no go.. with the new posting limit at 20 mill Tanaka will stay with his team for a few more years. Not worth it now to sell him at such a low bid.. 75+ to only 20, mlb just hurt themselves to a certain extent. Itoi on the other hand would be a silid get and 20 is about right for him to be posted..

    New report has Cano still being a chance for the M’s. We should know more as day goes on.

  4. JerryEK says:

    So, assuming the Cano ship has sailed, I’m now VERY concerned about what the M’s will do from here.

    The Cano signing was a desperation move, but it at least involved signing an elite, highly durable player. Unfortunately, if the M’s are still sticking to the “HUGE STATEMENT!” offseason strategy, all the plan Bs are far less appealing. Choo, Cruz and Napoli are the remaining top bats, and none make nearly as much sense for the M’s. Getting Cano, Kemp, Price, and a closer – although risky – made sense on some level. Getting Cruz, Kemp and Price makes far less sense. It’s too much cost for too little return.

    If I’m Jack, I’d reconsider the desperation strategy and continue to build internally, augmented by smart value acquisitions. Maybe Tanaka/Garza, Cory Hart, value bullpen additions, and under the radar trades and signings. They tried desperation moves, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to work out. Continuing with the “MUST BUY GOOD TEAM AT ALL COSTS!” model will just end really poorly.

  5. JerryEK says:

    Yeah, I think you’re probably right. Why would the M’s leak that? Having a marquee player turn down a HUGE offer doesn’t help the team in future negotiations with other players. I guess they might save face a bit by being able to say “we tried!”. But it also makes them look feeble.

    And it completely ruins any leverage Cano’s side would have had with other teams, since it seems highly likely that he just doesn’t want to sign in Seattle.

    This is strange. I don’t get it.

  6. docsmith says:

    I doubt it is coming from the M’s. The report said that Jay-Z’s demand caused Lincoln to “explode.” I don’t see the M’s leaking that.

    This could take awhile to unfold. $50 mil difference in offers would be tough to ignore. Yet, unless he had issues with NYY or does truly see them as a team in decline, I would assume he wants to continue to play there.

  7. JerryEK says:

    Yeah, that report isn’t at all promising. Two notes:

    1. Where are all the leaks coming from. Its not the M’s M.O. to leak details of negotiations, but there has been incredibly specific info coming out that paints the Cano camp as pretty amateurish in the way this is being handled. Not sure if the M’s are using the media in ways they previously didn’t, or is Cano’s agent is just stupid. But they lost a lot of leverage with Seattle out of the bidding.

    2. Cano’s agents are trying to get the M’s to bid against themselves. If he really doesn’t want to play in Seattle, the team was wise to walk away. The M’s don’t need to beat the next best offer by 100 mil. That’s bullshit.

  8. rotoenquire says:

    Sounds to me like talk talks are off with Cano. Jay Z may have just cost his client 50 Mill. Has Cano signed on with a new agent who may not know what he is doing? Unless something changes that is the way it looks.

  9. docsmith says:

    Just read Rosenthals article on why this is “dumb.” Rosenthals article is “dumb”…almost as dumb as his articles on why Seattle should trade Felix to NYY. Cano could see the M’s as a team on the rise and NYY as a team on the decline. Even though the M’s do need multiple players, you have to START with someone. Ugh.

    I am getting more excited. When I first saw this, I thought it was a negotiating ploy. And it still might be. But it is sounding more and more serious….and I am beginning to think it might be real.

  10. rjfrik says:

    I actually could live with the 9 years and 225 million. That is 25 million a year for 9 years. I agree with the Yankees analysts and think Cano will only be productive at 25 million a pop for 7 years. So Basically you are punting 2 years where he won’t be worth his 25 million, but even if he is only worth 20 million the last two years combined it’s worth it. To get a guy of Cano’s ability to Seattle you have to over pay, you just do and I would be willing to over pay by 30 million, you look at it as a 4 million dollar over pay tax per year for 7 productive years.

    The bigger issue is if Cano signs some major chips are going to fall. You should expect a BIG outfield signing in the next week, I think Choo, Beltran or Granderson will be the next chip. Then you will have the SP signing and then I would expect a major trade or two. Franklin or/and Ackley will be out the door.

    This is about to be a major overhaul. I’m down with it as long as Walker, Zunino and Miller stay. Every other young prospect is fair game. But those three can’t be touched IMO, if JZ can pull off a major overhaul with those three prospects staying I will be very happy.

  11. JerryEK says:

    Question for the community: what do you think is a “good” number for Cano.

    Realizing that the M’s are terrible and will have to overpay a bit, I’d say 8/200ish is about the upper end. Maybe 9/225 at the max, realizing those last 1-2 years will likely be a bust.

    What do you guys think?

    If this does go down, hopefully it happens soon. The M’s have a LOT of work to do, and it would be nice if Jack et al can get started on other business at the winter meetings.

  12. k0o56 says:

    Oh for sure. As Beane said in the movie Moneyball: “I’m not paying you for the player you used to be; I’m paying you for the player you are right now”.

  13. Chris Moran says:

    This is creative and interesting, but I don’t see it as being very good for the Mariners unless the Dodgers are eating a lot of Kemp’s salary. Right now, I don’t think the Mariners should take Kemp at full cost even if they didn’t have to give up anybody. I don’t see the point of giving up a decent prospect unless the Dodgers will eat a chunk of that 8 year, $160 million deal. Chronic hamstring issues, an ankle injury and a major shoulder surgery is just too much of a risk to take on at that cost.

  14. rotoenquire says:

    If Cano does sign could this lead to other players following this offseason? I think all signs point to yes. Again that is based solely on Cano signing.

    With a possible spending amount of 67 Mill. This deal would take 25 Mill of that alotted amount. Leaving 42 Mill on the board to go after players like Choo, Beltran, Cruz, Davis, Granderson Or retaining Morales or Morse. Also adding a pitcher like Garza or Jimenez.

    I am also in the hopes the M’s prioritze going after Itoi if he is posted.

    C Zunino
    1B Morales
    2B Cano
    3B Seagar
    SS Miller
    RF Choo
    CF Itoi
    LF Kemp

    SP Feliz
    SP Iwakuma
    SP Jimenez
    SP Paxton
    SP Yoon

    CL Farquhar/Hanrahan

  15. Paul Martin says:

    This just in on ESPN:

    “A spokesman for Cano’s agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, declined comment on the ongoing negotiations, but hinted that a deal could be imminent.

    “Let’s just say I’ll be on alert from here on in,” he said.”

  16. k0o56 says:

    re: Kemp

    I remember LAD was interested in trading for Price recently. Would it be plausible that a three-way trade could work where Price goes to LAD, Kemp to Seattle, and a bunch of prospects go to TB? I’m not advocating to trade for Kemp or not, just seems like an interesting idea (though as JAC explained in the past, three team trades are very complicated).

  17. rotoenquire says:

    New report 9 years 225 and Cano is in town!!!

  18. k0o56 says:

    Front-loading the contract might also make sense. You’d be paying more for his quality years versus his aging, downhill years. Not sure how players feel about the idea, or if it matters to them at all.

  19. Edman says:

    The rate salaries are going up, the last two years of the contract will seem normal.

    At least Cano is further in the process than Jack ever got with Fielder and Hamilton. With Ellsbury going to the Yankees, that puts Ackley back in CF. Sign Guti to a reasonable contract, and you won’t miss Jacoby.

  20. Paul Martin says:

    Wow! It’s not my money so I love this idea. I sure hope the team is willing to up its payroll to the 120 to 130 range to make this work…

  21. rjfrik says:

    It looks like this is the second time this week Cano has flown to Seattle to discuss a contract. So there is some serious legs to this. Previous reports have the Mariners not going above 200 million but doing the 10 years. Cano’s camp wants 240 million and ten years. So that is what they are negotiating, I’m assuming. My guess is the M’s throw out the tax break card and meet somewhere in the middle. I could see a 220 million/10 year deal being agreed to by both sides.

    In my opinion you would be punting the last two years of that contract as there is no way a 39 and 40 year old Cano could produce at a 22 million dollar a year clip (But then again look at Ibanez and Beltran this year), but, that is the price you pay to bring in a talent like Cano and change the culture of the M’s.

    As I said weeks ago in a previous thread. If I’m JZ, the number one target I go after is Cano and number two is Ellsbury or Choo. You have to add two bats to this lineup. If Cano signs look for a Choo or Granderson signing to follow. I would also suspect a trade for Kemp/Either as well, shipping off Ackley or Franklin along with a pitcher like Ramirez.

  22. rjfrik says:

    That is a big offer. Blows New York’s out of the water! Especially when you factor in taxes. Seattle has no income tax because the state of Washington has no personal income tax. While New York has a state AND city income tax, which adds up to 12% for high earners. So you are talking an additional 28 to 29 million dollars on top of the 230-240 million dollar offer. Essentially the true value of the offer is 258 million to 269 million dollars. New York was offering 160 million, so Cano will make an extra 100 million dollars over the life of the contract by taking Seattle’s offer over New York’s.

  23. rotoenquire says:

    10 year 230-240Mill offer to Cano. Cano flying into Seattle to talk. That is the report…

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