Andre Ethier got the start over Matt Kemp in center field for last night’s game against the Phillies. It could signal the end of Kemp’s days as a regular center fielder.
Coming off ankle surgery, Kemp’s range has been noticeably diminished this season. There were a number of examples of this during the team’s recent series against the Mets. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said after Thursday’s game that Kemp “doesn’t look the same” and lacks the “burst” that he used to have.
According to Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register, Mattingly talked privately with Kemp on Friday to discuss the situation. It’s unclear how the playing time will shake out in the Dodgers’ outfield, but Mattingly told reporters that “we need to get better there” and that they are “looking at all options.”
As for Kemp, he acknowledged that his defense needs to improve and that his ankle has been a factor:
“Do I feel the same? Man, I just need to play better defense,” Kemp said. “Ain’t no ‘burst’ or anything like that.
“I wish I was explosive as I could be in the past. I have good days and bad days. Some days my ankle is looser than other days. Some days it’s a little stiff. I’m not hurt or anything. But you have those good days and bad days. That’s true for any baseball player.
“Shoot – I wish I could go out there and steal 100 million bases like I used to. But like I said some days my legs – I don’t feel it as far as being loose. But the more I play, the more it gets better and better. I’m happy about that.”
Per Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times, Kemp is out of the lineup again today, with Ethier getting another start in center field.
Update (7:01 PM EDT): David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports the deal has been completed.
ESPN’s Keith Law reported on Saturday evening that a bad contract swap involving the Braves’ Hector Olivera and the Padres’ Matt Kemp was “getting close.” Olivera has been pulled off the field, per Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that only a last-second medical would kill the deal at this point, and that the Padres will be sending money to the Braves.
Kemp, 31, will have $64.5 million remaining on his contract through 2019 after this season, but the Dodgers will pay $3.5 million annually over those remaining three years, so the $64.5 million is really $54 million. The veteran has compiled a .262/.285/.489 triple-slash line with 23 home runs and 69 RBI in 431 plate appearances for the Padres this season.
Olivera, 31, will have $28.5 million remaining on his contract through 2020 after this season. The outfielder was handed an 82-game suspension, beginning on May 26, for his involvement in a domestic dispute on April 13. The suspension is up on August 2. He has a .501 OPS in 21 major league at-bats this season and a .278 OPS in 37 PA at Triple-A.
Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the Padres will consider designating Olivera for assignment. The trade is all about the salary dump for the Padres, as they’d rather give outfield playing time to prospects Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot.
The Athletics and Royals swapped outfielders on Saturday. The Athletics sent Billy Burns to Kansas City and the Royals sent Brett Eibner to Oakland.
Burns, 26, doesn’t provide much in the way of offense, but he runs the bases well and plays solid defense. He was hitting .234/.270/.303 with 11 doubles, four triples, and 14 stolen bases in 274 plate appearances.
Eibner, 27, was batting .231/.286/.423 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 85 plate appearances. He has spent most of the season with Triple-A Omaha, where he’s put up a .902 OPS in 219 PA. Eibner played the outfield corners in the majors, but racked up a ton of time playing center in the minors, so his versatility will be valuable to the A’s.
Burns will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2017 season while Eibner has hardly accrued any service time, which might explain part of the motivation behind the trade for the small-market Athletics.