Dodgers sign Matt Kemp to eight-year, $160 million extension

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UPDATE: Bob Nightengale of USA Today says it’ll be a done deal as soon as Kemp passes a physical exam. Eight years and $160 million, which makes it the largest contract in National League history and will keep Kemp in Los Angeles through age 34.

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Last week Matt Kemp’s agent sounded optimistic about the 26-year-old center fielder working out a long-term contract extension with the Dodgers and now Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that the two sides are “in serious discussions on an eight-year, $160 million contract.”

Kemp earned $7.1 million this year and is arbitration eligible for the final time in 2012, with a huge raise due following an MVP-caliber campaign that saw him hit .324 with 39 homers and 40 steals while leading the league with 129 RBIs and 115 runs.

Coming anywhere close to that type of season again in 2012 would set Kemp up for a massive payday as a 27-year-old free agent at a premium defensive position, but he’s also just one season removed from hitting .249 with a .760 OPS that was 226 points below this year’s mark.

Another factor is the Dodgers’ tenuous ownership situation, which has people speculating that they won’t be able to make plays for top-notch free agents, but Rosenthal’s report that they’re far along in discussions with Kemp suggests Frank McCourt’s exit won’t keep the team from locking up their superstar to a huge deal.

$160 million would be tied for the seventh-largest contract in MLB history, matching Manny Ramirez’s deal with the Red Sox in 2001. Troy Tulowitzki recently agreed to a six-year, $119 million extension with the Rockies that brought Colorado’s total commitment to the shortstop to $157.5 million over 10 seasons, but unlike Kemp he was under team control for several more seasons and not on the verge of cashing in as an in-his-prime a free agent.

Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Joe Mauer, Mark Teixeira, and CC Sabathia are the only players to get a contract surpassing $160 million.

Masahiro Tanaka to throw off a mound this weekend

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Earlier this month Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka strained both of his hamstrings while running the bases in an interleague game against the Mets and was sent to the 10-day DL. Today it was announced that the beginning of the end of most DL stints for pitchers — throwing off of a mound — is in Tanaka’s immediate future.

Tanaka is scheduled to throw off a mound Sunday, which will be his first real (well, fake real) pitching action since the June 9th injury. Assuming the session goes well, Tanaka is expected to return to the Yankees’ starting rotation sometime in early-to-mid July. With the All-Star break coming the week of July 16, it would not be hard to imagine the Yankees giving him a few extra days to get right.

Tanaka is 7-2 with a 4.58 ERA and a K/BB ratio of 73/19 in 72.2 innings on the season.