Rocco Baldelli spent nine years in the Rays organization before signing with the Red Sox last season, but now he’s back in Tampa Bay as a “special assistant.”
Baldelli said that he’s “not ready to retire,” but the 28-year-old outfielder has had numerous health problems in recent years and is currently sidelined by a shoulder injury. And if he’s not officially calling it quits, he certainly sounds willing to consider the idea:
I need to address it, just because I don’t want to walk around in pain any more. It’s something that affects my ability to play, so it’s something that I have to take care of. I don’t think I’m ready to retire, I’m only 28 years old. But at this point I can’t really do what I want to do on the field. I wasn’t comfortable going to spring training this year, because I wouldn’t be able to perform.
Baldelli explained that he played through the shoulder injury during the second half last season, hitting just .215 in 28 games, and “couldn’t deal with” it again after he “wasn’t able to get going this offseason throwing.” So for now he’ll be a roving outfield and base-running instructor working with young players, which should be interesting given that he’s actually younger than 14 guys on the team’s 40-man roster.
“Hopefully, some day, maybe I can play again,” Baldelli said. “If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen.”
The Dodgers have pulled off their first blockbuster trade of the offseason, sending Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir, Charlie Culberson, Adrian Gonzalez and cash considerations to the Braves for Matt Kemp, per announcements from both teams. The Braves are set to designate Gonzalez for assignment on Monday, making him a free agent.
Kemp, 33, had a down year with the Braves in 2017, hitting a career-low -0.5 fWAR in 115 games with the club. At the plate, he slashed a modest .276/.318/.463 with 19 home runs and a .781 OPS through 467 plate appearances, but was hampered by a nagging left hamstring strain through most of the season. This will be his 10th campaign with the Dodgers.
Whether or not Kemp can rebound during his second stint in Los Angeles is almost beside the point, however. The deal is effectively a salary dump to end all salary dumps. Offloading multiple one-year contracts for McCarthy, Kazmir and Gonzalez should bring the Dodgers back under the $197 million luxury tax threshold and position them to make a run at some of the big fish in next year’s free agent pool. It’s also worth noting that they may not keep Kemp around for long — per Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, the club appears as likely to flip the veteran outfielder as they are to use him. As for the Braves, they not only rid themselves of the $43 million due Kemp through 2020, but added some rotation and infield depth with McCarthy and Culberson and can now give top prospect Ronald Acuna a legitimate tryout in left field.