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.
Free agent right-hander Jeff Manship has reportedly signed with the NC Dinos of the Korea Baseball Organization, according to FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The righty was non-tendered by the Indians in December.
Manship, 32, completed his second season with Cleveland in 2016. He delivered a 3.12 ERA, 4.6 BB/9 and 7.5 SO/9 rate over 43 1/3 innings, a slight decline after posting an 0.92 ERA with the club the year before. During eight years in the major leagues, Manship carries a 4.82 career ERA, 3.6 BB/9 and 6.4 SO/9 in multiple stints with the Twins, Rockies, Phillies and Indians.
The right-hander will be joined by fellow MLB transplants Eric Hacker and Xavier Scruggs, each of whom took one-year deals with the Dinos last month. Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors notes that each KBO team is allowed up to three foreign players, so Manship will round out the trio when he joins the roster. Any salary terms have yet to be disclosed.
With the Braves on the cusp of formalizing their one-year deal with Kurt Suzuki, the market for free agent catcher Matt Wieters is dwindling. ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick references an inside source that lists the Angels, Rockies and Reds as potential suitors for the 30-year-old’s services.
Wieters is coming off of an eight-year career with the Orioles. In 2016, he played through his first full year after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2014 and batted .243/.302/.409 with 17 home runs and a .711 OPS in 464 PA. A return to Baltimore in 2017 isn’t out of the question, Crasnick writes, citing some within the team that would be open to Wieters stepping into a DH role and catching platoon with Wellington Castillo. However, he also points out that the front office appears divided on the veteran catcher, and sees the Orioles as a long shot for the foreseeable future.
The Angels have already been tied to Wieters this offseason, while the Rockies and Reds don’t appear to have made any formal inquiries so far. Both could use a veteran presence behind the dish, as the Rockies are planning to platoon rookie catcher Tom Murphy with 24-year-old Tony Wolters in the spring. The Reds, meanwhile, are banking on a quick recovery for 28-year-old Devin Mesoraco, who missed most of the 2016 season after undergoing shoulder and hip surgery and forced the club to rely almost exclusively on back-up backstop Tucker Barnhart.