No News Is Good News

dodger_dugout_2013nlcs_game5

The Dodgers have been painfully quiet this week, and that’s raising the angst of a lot of fans, wondering why Ned Colletti is “sitting still” while the Diamondbacks go out and “improve their team”. (There’s not enough air quotes in the world around that last part, of course, because if anything, trading Adam Eaton and Tyler Skaggs for Mark Trumbo is good news for the Dodgers.)

You can completely understand that. This is the week things were supposed to happen, and so far nothing has happened. You want new players to analyze, old issues to get resolved, and something fun to discuss.

But really, it seems like that isn’t going to happen. Nor, probably, is a Matt Kemp trade, since the team apparently told Dave Stewart, Kemp’s agent, that they had no plans to trade him. (A conversation which Stewart was not supposed to have repeated publicly, since he had to go on 710 and publicly apologize for it. Whoops!)

I think we all felt that a Kemp deal was unlikely, for all the reasons we’ve discussed a million times, but this really doesn’t make it less likely, does it? If the Mariners called ten seconds after Colletti spoke to Stewart and started panicking and said that they’d send James Paxton and Mike Zunino and Taijuan Walker and eat every dollar of Kemp’s deal — which I should not have to tell you is an offer that wouldn’t happen on this planet or any other — you better believe that Colletti’s conversation be damned, Kemp would be on the move. That wasn’t likely to happen before. It’s not likely to happen now. Nothing has changed. (Although I did enjoy Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski insisting they’ve never even had a discussion about Kemp, contrary to the accounts of certain breathlessly reported Michigan reporters.)

With the possibility that something happens tonight, the Dodgers are likely to go home tomorrow without anyone new. Honestly, nothing that even happened this week affected the team that much, so far as we know publicly. The Trumbo three-team deal didn’t include players the Dodgers may have wanted or teams they match up with; Bartolo Colon, Logan Morrison, and Corey Hart, three players who moved today, never were considerations. The Nationals acquiring lefty reliever Jerry Blevins from Oakland might take them out of the J.P. Howell stakes, but it might not.

Kemp remains a Dodger. So does Andre Ethier. Juan Uribe remains a complete unknown. Only one of those things is likely to change soon, and while that’s not particularly exciting, remember that A) it may seem like Dan Haren has been a Dodger for five years already, but that was only a few weeks ago, and B) I’d rather be bored than terrified my team was going to give $60m-$80m to Nelson Cruz or eight years to Shin-soo Choo. The Dodgers will fill the holes they have. Whether that happens on December 11 or January 11 or February 11, well, it doesn’t matter all that much to me.

Breaking: We Have Clues To Where Matt Kemp Is Going

matt_kemp_happy

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweeted earlier tonight that the Dodgers are still in touch with the Tigers, Red Sox, and Mariners about Matt Kemp, with the primary issue being that the Dodgers would want top quality back. That’s totally fine, completely understandable, and not at all new information. We know the Dodgers have been speaking to other clubs, and we know there isn’t likely to be a deal.

But then Rosenthal’s colleague Jon Morosi chimed in to add that Kemp and new Detroit manager Brad Ausmus were once teammates in Los Angeles… and all of a sudden, that started a scavenger hunt. If that’s all it takes, well… Kemp could be going anywhere. Anywhere!

Like…

 

 

 

 

Mystery solved!

Matt Kemp Still A Dodger, David Price Still Not

kemp_2013-05-10

The first day of the Winter Meetings have been relatively quiet so far, other than the truly excellent news that the Dodgers have acquired our pal Jon Weisman for a player to be named later, giving him a limited no-trade clause.

But it’s not likely to stay that way, and the rumors are already flying. Either the Dodgers badly want David Price or they don’t, or Matt Kemp is out the door or he’s not (or not going to be healthy for camp), or the Dodgers are in with four teams on Kemp or Andre Ethier, but that definitely includes or does not include Boston, or the team is getting impatient with Juan Uribe, or they’re “lukewarm” on Masahiro Tanaka, or..

..or, well, you know. Rumors always fly this time of year, they always get people up in arms, and 90% of them lead to nothing. But we still talk about them here, because they’re fun to think about, even if nobody really has any idea what they’re talking about.

So let’s lightning round some important points here…

Price

Yes, the Dodgers are almost certainly interested in Price. No, I don’t put a lot of stock into a Chicago radio host saying that talks are progressing. But I do know this: Dodger fans who are spitballing trade ideas at me have lost their mind if they think the Dodgers are getting price without Corey Seager. I went over the reasons why the idea of a Price trade made me uncomfortable last month, so read that for a full take, but you can’t expect the Rays to give up a better pitcher than James Shields for a lesser prospect than Wil Myers. No, Dee Gordon doesn’t countLikelihood: 12.4%.

Kemp

There’s clearly a big disconnect between the fan take and the analyst take here. Fans — the ones not incoherently calling him “soft” or “lazy,” anyway — seem to think that trading Kemp under any circumstances whatsoever is a bad idea. That’s just not true, really. You make a trade that benefits you. As I’ve said before, there’s likely not a trade out there that’s worth giving up on Kemp. But if one presents itself, then by all means, go ahead and do it. Simply put, since Kemp is still not healthy — he was in a walking boot as of three days ago, and teams may not like his medicals — it’s tough to see anyone giving up enough talent to make this anything other than a salary dump. Likelihood: 3.2%

Uribe

We heard the other day that Colletti had offered Uribe’s camp several deals, and was waiting on the response, so Saxon’s report (linked above) about growing impatience passes the sniff test. Of course, we’ve been over the barren third base market a few times. Chase Headley is expensive and potentially not available. Omar Infante hasn’t played there with regularity since 2008, and is hardly appealing. No one internally is moving there, and after that, you’re left with crazy, uninformed trade speculation. Ryan Zimmerman? Sure, why not? Or Brett Lawrie, or David Wright, or Adrian Beltre, or 10 other names that are in no way realistic. Hell, why not just bring back Carlos Santana? But know this: the slowly lumbering corpse of Aramis Ramirez looms. Likelihood (of Uribe returning): 46.3% and dropping.

Those Matt Kemp Rumors Aren’t Going Away

kemp_2013-09-25

So the Mariners maybe want Matt Kempif rumors are to be believed. Or the Red Sox. Or the Rangers. Or maybe none of this is news at all because we heard about this nearly a month ago, if not longer, and will continue to do so until someone is moved. But until then, every time a local columnist tweets something completely unsourced about a potential move, it will send Dodger fans into a fury, torn between “cool, I wonder what we can get?” and “noooo, not my Kemp!”

For the record, I don’t want to trade Kemp, because when he’s healthy, he’s arguably a top five player in the game. Those aren’t all that easy to find, obviously. But you always listen, no matter who it’s about, because you never know when it’s Detroit calling to ask if you’d like Doug Fister in exchange for three misshapen pennies. If a team comes up with the right deal for Kemp, then you trade him. Simple as that, as long as the value is right. I happen to believe that such a trade is difficult if not impossible to find, unless the Mariners whiff on Robinson Cano and David Price and decide that they absolutely positively have to do something, even when something is the kind of thing that makes Seattle fans lose sleep at night.

So maybe Kemp does get moved, and maybe the Dodgers don’t want to pay Clayton Kershaw until they know what they’ll be spending on the outfield, and maybe we’re all speculating with only the tiniest clue of what’s really going on internally. I still happen to believe that Andre Ethier is the more likely outfielder to get moved, if only because his lower cost makes it easier for the Dodgers to eat enough to get other teams in the game, and it’s not all that hard to see fits with the Mets, Pirates, Royals, Red Sox, Rangers, Tigers, etc. 

But let’s do the blogging blog bloggy thing and spitball something that will never actually happen and isn’t real, but is fun to consider anyway: the Padres.

Hear me out on this one. No, the Padres don’t need more outfielders, not after adding Seth Smith to Will Venable and Chris Denorfia and Carlos Quentin and Cameron Maybin and Reymond Fuentes, and they especially don’t want guys as expensive as this. But what they do have is the thing that no one else on this list does, and that’s a third baseman who would be a great fit for the Dodgers in Chase Headley.

Well, so what, right? The teams rarely trade with one another. But that’s why the gods created three-ways — shush, children — so think about this. Let’s say the Dodgers eat a considerable amount of Ethier’s deal, making him a 4/40 player or something similar, and can move him for two good (but not elite) prospects. Maybe that’s Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom from the Mets, or Allen Webster (hi!) and Mookie Betts from the Red Sox, or more likely none of those guys, because I’m just throwing darts at the wall here.

Sure, the Dodgers could just keep those guys and add them to the farm system. But maybe they could also take them and combine them with some non-Joc Pederson Dodger prospects like Chris Reed and Onelki Garcia to give the Padres a nice four-player package in return. Or if San Diego insists on Zach Lee, well, that’s fine, but maybe then you ask for them to toss in a Nick Vincent or someone for the bullpen too.

Likely? No, of course not. But it’s the week leading up to the winter meetings. Nothing is likely, and everything is.

2013 Dodgers in Review #20: CF Matt Kemp

90topps_mattkemp.270/.328/.395 290pa 6hr .316 wOBA -0.4 fWAR D-

2013 in brief: Wow, was that ever ugly.

2014 status: If he’s healthy, he’s playing every day.

Previous: 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012

******

Over at The Onion’s AV Club, when they do reviews of films, music, books, and television, they sometimes award what they refer to as “the gentleman’s F,” which is basically a D- with some context. It’s what they give to releases that are lousy, but are lousy with the best of intentions, and so you feel bad truly dumping on them. If you’re getting that straight-up F, you have to have really earned it, either because you’re brazenly obnoxious, tone-deaf, or offensive. If you’re tossing together some horrible romantic comedy with two leads who have zero chemistry but happen to have name value, or any of those endless genre parodies or 1980s remakes designed only to separate fools from their dollars, then yeah, screw you: F.

Yet if you’re putting together something that seemed like a good idea at the time but just didn’t work out because of circumstances or bad luck or timing, well, who really has the heart to bash that?

That’s sort of how I feel about Matt Kemp‘s 2013 season. It was woefully, endlessly, interminably, painful. But it was hardly due to a lack of effort or preparation on his part — this isn’t Andruw Jones‘ 2008 or Juan Uribe‘s 2011-12 here — and so I can’t in good conscience award him an F. So that’s you end up with a D-. The gentleman’s F.

Still, my lord, what a disaster. After hearing for approximately the one millionth time how attempting to play through serious injury — in this case, his shoulder at the end of 2012 — was a terrible idea, he never really looked right in spring training, striking out nearly a third of the time. Though we kept saying that spring numbers don’t matter — they don’t — it carried over into the season. Despite repeated declarations that his shoulder was healthy, Kemp didn’t hit just two homers in the first two months.

There were some signs, like the 14-game hitting streak he had between April 30 and May 15, but even during that run he only had three extra base hits, all doubles. He was clearly not himself, and for all of the injury-related reasons this team had for being terrible in the first half, Kemp’s sub-.700 OPS was as big as any. If April (.260/.318/.344) was bad, May (.242/.291/.326) was worse.

By May 28, we were at a total loss of what to do with him:

With one more poor outing, his on-base percentage is likely to drop below .300, and he is, right now, among the 20 worst qualified hitters in the big leagues. (He’s 21st on that link of poorest wOBA I just included, but some of those ahead of him, like Dustin Ackley, no longer have big league jobs.) Dodger fans are booing him at home, and while I don’t condone it, because I absolutely do not think lack of effort is the problem here, I do understand it. Kemp looks absolutely lost at the plate, and he seems to be headed in the wrong direction as the days go by.

So what can be done? A popular thought is “send him to the disabled list,” especially when you hear him say things like he “can’t fully extend his shoulder,” though the fact that he was recently cleared to do more in the weight room than before certainly seems to indicate he’s not injured. Chad Moriyama recently laid out a pretty exhaustive look at Kemp’s mechanics and settled on the convincing idea that taking Kemp out of the lineup may do more to hurt his comeback than to aid it, since he isn’t going to get his timing and confidence back on the shelf. (And no, as several people have asked me, you can’t just ship him to Triple-A; his service time precludes that without his consent. Nor would I want to.)

Two days later, we didn’t have to worry about people wanting to gin up fake disabled list stints — we had a real one:

The trials and tribulations of Matt Kemp in 2013 just never seem to end, apparently. Just two days ago, we were here wondering if there was anything the Dodgers could or should do to help their struggling superstar regain his past form. Then he left early on Tuesday after taking a pitch off his right elbow, leading to numbness in his right hand, and left early again on Wednesday after straining his hamstring. Add that to the ongoing concern about his shoulder and his overall performance, and he is, quite frankly, a mess.

That cost Kemp nearly all of June. When he returned on June 25, he didn’t look all that different for the first week. But then there was hope, and as you’ll soon learn, “hope” is the worst thing you could have had for Matt Kemp in 2013. On July 3, he had two hits, including a homer. On July 4, he had two hits, including a homer. The next day in San Francisco, he hurt his shoulder on an awkward swing; three days later, he was right back on the disabled list.

If you didn’t think it could get worse, well, it could. Kemp returned on July 21 in Washington. He was awesome. He homered, he doubled, and he singled, as the team took over first place… and he also destroyed his left ankle on a slide into the plate in the ninth inning. (I’m not going to embed the video of it — you can see it here — to save you some pain, but I do get a kick out of seeing Don Mattingly insist it wouldn’t send Kemp back to the disabled list.)

At this point, Kemp was less a baseball player than he was a ghost story you tell the kids to scare them at night, especially when reports surfaced on September 6 that Kemp — who hadn’t returned from that July ankle injury — might be “shut down indefinitely” due to hamstring soreness. To his credit, he never gave up and returned yet again on September 16, though we were all worried after a truly awful “zero hits, one walk in 19 Single-A rehab plate appearances” stint with the Quakes.

As the team was into a September slump, we merely hoped that Kemp would provide some energy, and anything he’d give on the field would be gravy. In his second game back, we got that gravy and then some:

Zack Greinke was wonderful last night, and Juan Uribe hit his fifth homer in eight games, and Hanley Ramirez got on base four times, and Patrick Corbin got knocked out early, and absolutely no one cares about any of that because MATT KEMP YES MATT KEMP.

Kemp had four hits in his return to the lineup, and that’s the takeaway here, because after so much frustration this year it was wonderful just to see the man in action and happy. (The marquee image above is obviously not from last night’s game, but you can see why I chose it.) I’m hoping that we’ve learned by now not to expect anything from Kemp beyond that day’s game, because by the time the regular season ends he might very well have been abducted by aliens or have contracted flesh-eating disease or something, but it was difficult to watch that and not become very hopeful for what he might provide.

If Kemp wasn’t quite “his old self” in 11 games (nine starts) after returning, he was close enough – .314/.385/.486. We were excited about what a lineup that had a healthy Kemp alongside Hanley Ramirez & Yasiel Puig might look like in the playoffs, but while I was mostly joking about “alien abduction,” I guess I shouldn’t have been.

Kemp didn’t play in the final two games of the season. When the Dodgers came out on the field following the last game of the year, Kemp was on crutches. We soon found out why, in a post I titled, “Life is Pain“:

Hey, you guys remember the long-ago times of this morning when I half-seriously mentioned that Skip Schumaker might be the starting center fielder in the playoffs but that I wasn’t really worried about it, because all signs indicated that Matt Kemp would be there? I think I also said that “Kemp’s health absolutely cannot be counted on,” and now I’m realizing that there is no higher power and we’re all going to die alone, cold and unloved.

This is all coming back now because we just learned that not only will Kemp not play in Game 1, he won’t play at all, having now been shut down for the entire season thanks to his sore left ankle, going so far as to say “if I keep playing on it, my ankle could break”. David Vassegh adds that Kemp learned the news in the “3rd or 4th inning” today, after an MRI that Eric Stephen tells us showed “major swelling in one of the weight-bearing bones”, which (this one via Bill Shaikin) may need about a month to heal. Dylan Hernandez adds that Kemp will also have cleanup surgery on the shoulder that started this run of injuries, and WHY CAN’T WE HAVE NICE THINGS?

Kemp did indeed have surgery on both his shoulder and his ankle following the season. He claims he’ll be ready for Opening Day. You’ll excuse me if I’m not holding my breath.

******

Next! Yasiel Puig-mania!