Casey Blake has been out since April 25 with an elbow infection that was expected to sideline him for 4-6 weeks, but yesterday manager Don Mattingly revealed that “Casey is close” to beginning a minor-league rehab assignment.
Mattingly told Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times that Blake “went the fully Monty” yesterday, which means taking batting practice and fielding ground balls (presumably with clothes on).
Friday is the start of a six-game road trip for the Dodgers and Mattingly indicated that the goal is for Blake to begin rehabbing during that time.
Juan Uribe has started 13 of the past 15 games at third base in Blake’s absence, but has hit just .154 and was benched yesterday in favor of Juan Castro.
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.