Don Mattingly is entering the final season of his contract and the Dodgers manager told Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times that he doesn’t expect to get an extension before Opening Day.
Not only that, but Mattingly explained that if the Dodgers and their record $230 million payroll don’t live up to the high expectations this season he would understand if ownership wanted him gone:
If we don’t win and we’re healthy, they really should look at it. This team has a lot of talent. My job, and my coaches’ job, is to get them to play the game right. If we can’t get them to play the game right, they may have the wrong voice. There’s a ton of talent here.
You don’t hear many managers say that type of thing and it’ll be awfully easy to trot out those quotes if the Dodgers get off to a slow start. In his first two seasons Mattingly went 82-79 and 86-76, failing to make the playoffs in both years.
It’s also worth noting that the Dodgers have a 2014 option on Mattingly that they haven’t exercised yet despite the manager asking them to do so. So if the team gets off to a good start or makes a deep playoff run they aren’t at risk of losing him either.
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.