UPDATE: The Dodgers just announced that Kemp left the game with a right knee contusion and was taken for precautionary X-rays on his jaw. He doesn’t have any concussion symptoms, so it sounds like he won’t have to miss much time.
9:54 PM: Matt Kemp crashed into the center field fence at Coors Field last night in the eighth inning, but managed to stay in the game. He wasn’t as fortunate tonight.
Kemp was trying to track down a fly ball off the bat of Josh Rutledge in the bottom of the first inning tonight when he ran full-speed into the center field fence. You can watch video of the play here.
Kemp was on the ground for several moments while being examined by team trainers, but he eventually got to his feet and convinced all involved that he was OK to stay in the game. The ball found him with the very next batter though, as Jordan Pacheco hit a bloop to center field which caused Kemp to make a diving attempt. He came up empty-handed and appeared to be flexing his neck and jaw when he got back up. He was removed from the game after the next batter.
Kemp has already served two stints on the disabled list this year with hamstring injuries. The Dodgers have added plenty of reinforcements over the past month, but the road to a potential postseason berth would be a lot tougher if he requires another extended absence.
The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.
Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.
Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”
Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.
The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.