Matt Kemp plans to be the first member of the 50/50 club

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Everyone’s gotta have a goal. Mine was get a job where I didn’t have to wear pants one day, and dadgummit, I did it. Matt Kemp’s is somewhat less grand: he wants to be the first member of the 50/50 club:

“I know what I’m capable of doing,” he said. “I’ve shown it.”

Fifty-fifty? Really?

“Man,” he said, “I believe in myself to the most. I have confidence I can achieve it. I try to set my expectations as high as I can. I think I’m capable of doing it.”

Obviously it’s never smart to bet on someone doing something that has never been done, but good for him for aiming high. Especially after securing that huge contract over the offseason. Kemp sounds like someone not content to rest on what may have been a career year in 2011 and motivation is a good thing to have.

Here’s a question, though: which of the 50s — homers or stolen bases — are more likely?

I’d have to say stolen bases. Partially because of the big parks in his division. Partially because of the lack of other threats in the Dodgers’ lineup resulting in fewer good pitches to hit. Partially because he’s come closer to stealing 50 in a season before — 40 last year — than he has to hitting 50 homers in a season before — 39 last season. He averages 26 homers per 162 games in his career while averaging 30 steals.

And one final thing: if 50 stolen bases is really his goal, it’s another reason — aside from all of the reasons Matthew listed last night — for Kemp to bat cleanup.  Way easier to steal bases when you lead off the second inning as opposed to batting third in the first. And given who Don Mattingly plans on batting first and second, Kemp, batting third, would be up with two down in the first an awful lot.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.