Benched yesterday for a fourth straight game, Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp told Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times: “I just want to play, man.”
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has been mixing and matching outfielders all season because he has Kemp, Yasiel Puig, Carl Crawford, and Andre Ethier to play and only three spots in which to play them, but Kemp is the first guy in that group to sit out four consecutive games.
He’s definitely been benched and Mattingly has cited his poor defense in center field as a big reason, although there’s always the option of shifting Kemp to a corner spot to keep his bat in the lineup considering he has a higher OPS than Crawford or Ethier. And of course the fact that Kemp has a $160 million contract further complicates matters.
It sounds like Crawford and Kemp may form a quasi-platoon in left field, which is a helluva way to spend $300 million. And in the meantime Ethier is Mattingly’s choice to start in center field despite the fact that he’s very stretched defensively there. Sometimes having tons of money and tons of outfielders isn’t such a good thing.
Free agent outfielder A.J. Pollock has landed on the Dodgers’ radar, and The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal says the two appear to be in discussions regarding a deal for 2019. Terms of any prospective deal have not been released, but interest is presumed to be fairly high as he checks two boxes on their wish list: that of a right-handed hitter and an experienced centerfielder.
Pollock, 31, rounded out a seven-year career with the Diamondbacks in 2018. While he was sidelined for nearly seven weeks after fracturing his left thumb on a dive gone wrong, he finished the season batting a hearty .257/.316/.484 with a career-best 21 home runs, 13 steals (in 15 chances), and 2.5 fWAR across 460 plate appearances. He received a $17.9 million qualifying offer from the club at the end of the year and elected to enter free agency in hopes of a better deal, which some have estimated at five years and $80 million.
So far, it’s not clear whether teams are willing to meet those terms. Pollock profiles as both a solid hitter and defender, but he hasn’t played a season in full health since 2015, which may be a deal-breaker for those in search of long-term talent. Even with that caveat, however, the Dodgers are far from the only club willing to enter negotiations with the outfielder this winter. The Braves have been linked to Pollock since December, and the Mets and Reds have expressed varying levels of interest as well.