In hiring Davey Lopes as their new first base coach the Dodgers are adding one of the game’s most successful base-stealers and base-stealing coaches to the staff, but there’s also an added bonus: Lopes is longtime friends with Dave Stewart, the former All-Star pitcher-turned-agent who represents center fielder Matt Kemp.
Kemp clashed with the previous coaching staff and Stewart wasn’t shy about going public with his thoughts on the situation, but now he’s confident that “Matt will have someone he can trust” in Lopes, whom he calls “the best friend I have in this world.”
Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports that Lopes got in touch with Kemp several weeks ago to talk about his offseason workout program and yesterday Lopes spoke about the importance of having a good relationship with young players:
You have to adapt to today’s player. You have to be able to communicate. You need a guy to build you up. That helps elevate a player.
Kemp could definitely use some building up after seeing his OPS drop from .842 to .760 while his defense declined significantly as well, and Lopes’ base-stealing expertise may come in particularly handy. Kemp swiped 35 bases in 2008 and 34 bases in 2009, but was thrown out on 15 of his 34 attempts this season. Lopes isn’t a miracle-worker, but he seemingly has as good a chance as anyone of helping Kemp get back on track in 2011.
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.