Matt Kemp: “I’m not a fourth outfielder”

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Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp has played in 179 of a possible 324 regular season games over the past two years due to [background changes from night to day, summer to winter while I recount] a strained left hamstring, a right knee contusion, a frayed labrum in his left shoulder (which required surgery in October 2012), inflammation of the AC joint in his left shoulder, a sprained left ankle, debridement of the AC joint in his left shoulder (required surgery in October 2013), and surgery to repair a bone spur, get rid of loose bodies, and heal a microfracture in the talus bone in his left ankle.

Manager Don Mattingly doesn’t believe Kemp will be ready for the Dodgers’ season opener against the Diamondbacks in Australia on March 22, according to MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick. Kemp hasn’t run yet on his surgically-repaired ankle. Thankfully for the Dodgers, they have three fully capable and healthy outfielders in Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier, and Yasiel Puig. The more time Kemp misses, the easier it will be for the Dodgers — who still owe him $128 million through 2019 — to slide him into a bench role, and eventually pursue a trade.

According to ESPN’s Mark Saxon, Kemp says he “won’t accept that role”.

“I’m not a fourth outfielder. We can cut that off right there,” Kemp said. “I won’t accept that role. I can’t accept that role.”

We are moving into the third season since Kemp nearly won the NL MVP award, leading the league with 39 home runs and 126 RBI along with an impressive adjusted OPS of 172. He was even productive in 2012 as he succumbed to injuries, hitting .303 with a .906 OPS. But his numbers plummeted in 2013. His power vanished, he was essentially a non-factor on the bases, and his mastery of the strike zone weakened.

Kemp is still only 29 years old, and he very well may have plenty of productive seasons ahead of him if he can stay healthy. The Dodgers, well-constructed to stampede through the NL West, don’t need to wait to see if Kemp can handle the rigors of a 162-game season, though. As such, Kemp may end up a part-timer whether he likes it or not.

Tigers sign Edwin Espinal to minor league deal

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Free agent first baseman Edwin Espinal has signed a minor league deal with the Tigers, the infielder announced Saturday. The move has yet to be confirmed by the team.

Espinal, 23, capped a seven-year run with the Pirates’ minor league affiliates in 2017. He split his season between Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis, batting a cumulative .294/.327/.447 with 15 home runs and 31 doubles in 532 plate appearances. While he’s raked at nearly every level so far, he also profiles well on defense, and rounded off his 2017 performance with a perfect fielding percentage, 208 putouts and a Gold Glove award.

Espinal is untested at the major league level and it’s not yet clear if he’ll make the jump in 2018. He showed some positional versatility during his time in the minors, however, and could take reps at third base or DH if necessary. The Tigers are reportedly on the lookout for pitching depth and left-handed bats — two bills the right-handed Espinal doesn’t fit — and presumably have a lot of moves left to make this winter.