Tag: Matt Kemp

Andrew Friedman, Stan Kasten

2015 Preview: Los Angeles Dodgers


Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2015 season. Next up: The Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Big Question: Will the revamped front office put the Dodgers over the top?

After losing in the NLCS in 2013, the Dodgers won their second straight NL West title last season before being ousted by the Cardinals during the NLDS. It was bitterly disappointing, especially to see the division rival Giants go on to win the World Series, but such is life with the randomness of the playoffs. However, rather than stand pat and hope for better luck in 2015, the Dodgers decided to shake things up by reassigning GM Ned Colletti and giving big money to Andrew Friedman to lure him from the Rays. Friedman, who was hired as president of baseball operations, then brought on Farhan Zaidi from the A’s to serve as general manager and made a host of other changes throughout the organization.

Friedman and Zaidi were accustomed to making the most out of limited resources with their former organizations, so being free from these shackles allowed them to not only improve around the margins with their new team but also make some bold moves. After letting free agent Hanley Ramirez walk, the Dodgers remade their middle infield by acquiring Jimmy Rollins and cashing in on Dee Gordon’s big 2014 to get Andrew Heaney as a chip for Howie Kendrick. They flipped Matt Kemp to the Padres and landed a new primary catcher (Yasmani Grandal) in the process. They threw money at risk with the backend of their rotation by signing Brandon McCarthy to a four-year, $48 million contract, Brett Anderson to a one-year, $10 million deal and the rehabbing Brandon Beachy for $2.75 million. The Dodgers will pay $30.5 million (between Kemp, Dan Haren, and Gordon) for players who aren’t playing for them this season. Talk about a different world.

This is a lot of turnover for a roster that already had some great pieces in place. Clayton Kershaw, with three Cy Young Awards in the last four seasons, is the undisputed best pitcher on the planet. Meanwhile, Zack Greinke has been excellent during his first two seasons in Los Angeles and Hyun-Jin Ryu has gone underappreciated since coming stateside. Yasiel Puig is one of the most talented and exciting players in the game today and will likely face more pressure to be the face of this offense with Kemp and Ramirez elsewhere. Fortunately, Adrian Gonzalez is a durable and consistent force in the middle of the lineup.

Barring something unexpected, like an injury to Kershaw, it’s hard to not see the Dodgers as the overwhelming favorite to win their third straight NL West crown. Perhaps the gambles in the backend of the starting rotation won’t work out, but they have the prospect depth and the money to make a trade if an in-season upgrade is necessary. However, the great unknown of October lingers. And no front office change or player acquisition can bring certainty.

What else is going on?

  • The dynamic between Don Mattingly and the new Dodgers’ front office will be fascinating to follow. After Friedman joined the Dodgers and Joe Maddon opted out of his contract with the Rays, many immediately assumed that they would be reunited in Los Angeles. However, the Dodgers stood behind Don Mattingly while Maddon ended up with the Cubs. Still, Mattingly wasn’t chosen by them. He was a holdover. Mattingly has never been vocal about his use of analytics in the past, but he said back in January that “you’re a fool” if you’re not using them as part of your decision making. He’s talking the talk, which is a good idea for a person who wants to keep his job, but we’ll have to see if he meshes with the new regime.
  • Kenley Jansen underwent surgery in mid-February to remove a growth from his left foot and is expected to miss the first month of the season. Some speculated that the Dodgers would throw money at Francisco Rodriguez (who eventually signed with the Brewers) or Rafael Soriano (who is still a free agent), but they appear content to rely on internal options to fill in. Joel Peralta was acquired from the Rays over the winter and figures to be in the mix, but keep an eye on Chris Hatcher. Hatcher, who came over to the Dodgers in the Gordon trade, is another former catcher (like Jansen) and quietly posted a 3.38 ERA and 60/12 K/BB ratio across 56 innings last season. There’s some uncertainty with this situation, but they should be able to get by for a month.
  • Juan Uribe currently projects to be the regular third baseman if he’s healthy, but the Dodgers are one of the teams who have been linked to Cuban free agent infielder Hector Olivera. In fact, they reportedly made a $77 million offer before Olivera switched agents. Who knows if that offer was legitimate — he’d probably already be a Dodger by now if that was true — but clearly they like him. He’s 29 and was one of the best hitters in Cuba, so he could be ready to make an impact in the majors right away.
  • While Andre Ethier is on the outside looking in for playing time, rookie Joc Pederson is penciled in as the Dodgers’ regular center fielder this season. He turns 23 in April and is coming off a monster season in Triple-A where he batted .303/.435/.582 with 33 home runs and 30 stolen bases across 121 games. Baseball America recently ranked him as the No. 8 prospect in the game. He put up those numbers in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League and strikeouts are an issue for him, so expect some growing pains, but he should be exciting to watch.
  • Zack Greinke is guaranteed $71 million from 2016-2018, but he has the ability to opt out of his contract after this season and test the free agent market. He would almost certainly fetch more if his 2015 is anything close to his first two seasons in Los Angeles. From that perspective, the Dodgers likely won’t be upset if it works out that way. And heck, they certainly have the money to bring him back if they want.
  • Vin Scully is back in the booth for his 66th season, which is a treat for all baseball fans. Don’t take him for granted.

Prediction: The Dodgers will win the NL West handily.

Tim Federowicz out 3-6 months with a torn meniscus

Tim Federowicz

MLB.com’s Barry M. Bloom reports that Padres catcher Tim Federowicz will miss the next three to six months with a complete tear of the meniscus in his right knee. The initial diagnosis had been a small tear in his lateral meniscus, which would have required arthroscopic surgery.

The Padres had acquired the 27-year-old Federowicz along with outfielder Matt Kemp in the December trade that sent Yasmani Grandal, Joe Wieland, and pitching prospect Zach Eflin to the Dodgers.

With Federowicz out of the picture, veteran Wil Nieves will back up Derek Norris behind the plate. Nieves, 37, hit .254/.270/.344 with one home run and seven RBI in 128 plate appearances as Carlos Ruiz’s back-up in Philadelphia last season.

The Padres are . . . relaxed

Matt Kemp

PEORIA — Ariz. — Because I am an utter glutton for punishment, I decided to brave crosstown Phoenix traffic yesterday afternoon and go from the daytime Cubs-Angels game over to the evening Dodgers-Padres tilt. Why? Partially because the first Will Ferrell game I saw was fun so why not see a second one? But also because this Padres team is so fundamentally different than what we saw last year that I wanted to grok their new zeitgeist for myself.

It has been two years since I’ve been in Peoria, actually, and a whole lot is different. For one thing, the complex at which the Padres and Mariners train has been totally redone, and it’s pretty fantastic. Standing inside the Padres clubhouse and you think you’re inside the Cubs’ brand new clubhouse over at Sloan Park. It’s big, open, airy and filled with natural light.

But the architectural changes are not the most notable thing. That would be Matt Kemp, holding court and seemingly setting the tone for a loose, happy clubhouse.

Kemp, who was wearing a T-shirt with the case of the movie “The Sandlot” on it, has a mini Marshall amp in his locker hooked up to his iPhone and soon after I arrived he started playing jams. Maybe not the jams you’d expect. Blasting from his speaker was “The Promise,” by When in Rome. When that didn’t really grab anyone (except for 40 something baseball writers who were straight grooving on it) he switched to Hall and Oates. “Private Eyes,” if you care. Except that song sounds so much better in a big major league clubhouse with an All-Star outfielder clapping his hands to the beat [they’re watchin’ you — clap-clap — they see your every move”] than it does on the radio in your mom’s 1979 Buick LeSabre.

That party didn’t last too long, as Kemp disappeared outside the back door of the clubhouse. I followed and found myself next to the Padres’ outdoor basketball court, tucked in between the clubhouse and the practice fields. There were 20-30 players there, watching an in-progress three-point competition, complete with the racks of balls around the arc, NBA-style. It was a team competition, with the 5’6″ Alexi Amarista cleaning up for the team in action at the moment. His touch was nice, but one-time Cubs prospect Jay Jackson had a nice touch too. Everyone was else was either rebounding, watching, trash-talking or some combination of the three.

Even manager Bud Black was getting into the act, hanging out on the court and talking his fair share of trash too. Earlier I saw him taking part in the team’s ping pong competition. All teams do that, but I’ve not seen a manager involved. Hell, it’s not often you see a manager do much besides hang in his office and talk to the coaches in the few hours before the game. But Black was.

I talked to some Padres employees after the clubhouse closed. They had seen me tweeting about the atmosphere and wanted to let me know that, no, this was not unusual this spring. Matt Kemp has been holding court, happy and loose as hell. He, in turn, has taken pressure off of Justin Upton who, while always tabbed to be a superstar, has never struck anyone as the rah-rah leader type. I’m told that he’s really loose too, happy the spotlight isn’t on him, allowing him to be himself. Wil Myers is a tad tired of answering questions about covering center — he either will or he won’t hack it — but he seems pretty happy to not be asked about being a prospect at a crossroads or the subject of one of the more infamous trades in recent years.

A good clubhouse and good team chemistry doesn’t win ballgames. Ultimately the Padres’ fate hinges on that outfield defense. On Yonder Alonso living up to his potential. On the rotation — which looks pretty spiffy on paper — staying healthy. On whether the Dodgers and Giants stumble enough to allow San Diego to break into contention.

But it doesn’t hurt either. And while it’s only March 13 and no battle plan survives engagement with the enemy (with said engagement more than three weeks away), at the moment the Padres have mood and attitude covered like crazy.

It’s quite a zeitgeist to grok, actually.

Dodgers trying to trade Andre Ethier, willing to pay “about half” of his $56 million contract

Los Angeles Dodgers batter Andre Ethier reacts in the dugout after he struck out against the New York Mets during their MLB National League baseball game in New York

Andre Ethier wants to be an everyday player again and the Dodgers have three outfielders they like better than him even after trading away Matt Kemp. So why hasn’t Ethier been traded yet?

Well, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com the Dodgers are offering to cover “about half” of Ethier’s remaining three-year, $56 million contract to move him and so far at least that “hasn’t enticed teams.”

Ethier at three years and around $10 million per season is still pretty pricey for a 33-year-old corner outfielder who hit just .249 with four homers and a .691 OPS in 130 games last season and previously saw his power drop in 2011-2013.

However, prior to 2014 he was consistently a .775-.850 OPS hitter and if the Braves were willing to give Nick Markakis a four-year, $44 million deal this offseason some team may eventually decide Ethier is worth, say, $20 million for three years. Of course, considering how little money seems to matter to the Dodgers at this point it’s possible their players/prospects asking price is more of a sticking point.

Jimmy Rollins: Mets’ future “looks pretty bright”

Jimmy Rollins

Jimmy Rollins made a name for himself with his play on the field helping the Phillies overcome the Mets in the NL East in 2007 and ’08 and also trash talking the division rivals. Prior to the 2007 season, he declared the Phillies “the team to beat” in the division, and he was eventually proven right when the Phillies toppled the Mets in historic fashion in the final three weeks of the season. As a result, Rollins became a villain in the eyes of the Mets and their fans.

So it came as a bit of a surprise to hear what he said Saturday about the Mets. Via ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick:

“This was my No. 1 landing spot,” Rollins said from Los Angeles’ spring training camp, “and I considered the Mets to be No. 2. They have some arms over there — oh my gosh.”

Rollins said about playing the Mets last season, “that team wasn’t that bad”. He added, “when you look to the future there, it looks pretty bright.”

Rollins saying the Mets were his “No.2 ” is interesting as the Mets had interest in trading for Rollins but backed off after it was believed he wouldn’t waive his 10-and-5 rights for them.

The Dodgers acquired the 36-year-old Rollins in a trade with the Phillies in December, sending away pitchers Zach Eflin (acquired from the Padres in the Matt Kemp trade) and Tom Windle. Rollins finished the 2014 season with a respectable .243/.323/.394 slash line along with 17 home runs, 55 RBI, and 28 stolen bases.