Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp has batted .314 with an .870 OPS in 39 plate appearances since returning from his severe left ankle sprain on September 16. But that ankle injury still lingers.
Kemp was scratched from the Dodgers’ starting lineup on Saturday night against the Rockies with what is being termed an ankle flareup and manager Don Mattingly acknowledged in his postgame chat that the 29-year-old is nowhere near 100 percent. “I don’t think he’s running full speed,” Mattingly said. “We’re not going to get the 40-[steals] type guy. That’s just not there, I don’t think, at this point from what we’ve been through with the ankle and the hammy and all that. We’re not going to be that. But we’re still pretty good. He shows he can do a lot of things.”
“It’s just irritated. Nothing crazy,” Kemp told MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick. “I played the last six games and it got a little sore. … I couldn’t get loose and decided not to play today. Sprained ankles are tricky sometimes.”
Andre Ethier (ankle, shin) and Yasiel Puig (leg) are also hobbled heading into Sunday’s Game 162. But the good news for the National League West-champion Dodgers is that the NLDS won’t begin until Thursday.
The Dodgers have signed lefty Rich Hill to a three-year, $48 million contract.The deal was reported to be imminent over the weekend, but was finalized today following Hill’s physical.
Hill missed a good deal of time in 2016 with blister issues — and he’ll be 37-years-old on Opening Day — but when he was healthy he was fantastic, posting the best season in his 12-year career. He had a a 2.12 ERA and 129 strikeouts in 110.1 innings between the Athletics and Dodgers.
Along with a healthy Clayton Kershaw a maturing Julio Urias and Kenta Maeda, the Dodgers rotation looks to be a strength in 2017.
UPDATE: Buster Olney reports that a deal is in place pending a physical. The financial terms are not yet known. UPDATE: Joel Sherman of the New York Post hears it’s in the four-year, $62 million range. That will make him, temporarily at least, the highest-paid closer in baseball history.
12:15 PM: Ken Rosenthal reports that the San Francisco Giants are close to a deal with closer Mark Melancon.
Melancon had an outstanding 2016, posting a 1.64 ERA, 2.42 FIP and a 5.42 K/BB rate in 71.1 innings while saving 47 games for the Pirates and Nationals. You may recall that the Giants had a strong interest in Melancon last summer. It was a well-founded interest given the bullpen woes which waylaid San Francisco in the second half of last season and continued on into the playoffs.
The terms of the apparently impeding deal will be known soon enough, but Rosenthal reported yesterday that Melancon was fielding offers in the four-years, $60 million range. That’s a lot for a closer, but it’ll probably look like a bargain compared to the deals signed with the other two top closers on the market, Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen. Some have speculated that Chapman could get a deal closer to $100 million than $50 million, though that seems optimistic.
What the past couple of seasons have shown, however, is that having a top bullpen will get you very, very far in Major League Baseball. Champan may have been gassed at the end of Game 7, but he was essential to the Cubs’ World Series title. Powerful bullpens gave the Royals a title in 2015 and the Indians an AL pennant this past year. A weak one was, obviously, the Giants’ achilles heel.
Their great need at the back end of the pen, according to Rosenthal’s report, is apparently about to be filled.