Matt Kemp thinks the Padres have the best outfield in baseball. I don’t think he’s right about that.

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Matt Kemp is optimistic about the San Diego Padres’ outfield. From Lyle Spencer at MLB.com:

“Who,” he said, “do you think has the best outfield in the game now?”

The visitor gave it some thought before nominating the American League champion Royals for defensive purposes and the Pirates or Marlins for all-around excellence.

Kemp shook his head. “No,” he said, firmly. “It’s right here. Right here in San Diego. You can write it down — and print it.”

Optimism is good. As is the offensive potential of Justin Upton, Wil Myers and Matt Kemp.

Earlier in his career Upton showed flashes of an MVP-caliber bat and, even if he hasn’t lived up to that, he is a dangerous hitter and serious power threat. Myers was off last year but is just a year removed from a Rookie of the Year campaign and extreme promise as a prospect. Kemp, of course, needs no introduction. He easily could’ve and maybe should’ve been the MVP a few years ago and, after getting healthy last year, put up a second half which quieted a lot of people who said he had fallen off.  If all of thee of these guys hit to their potential, it could be an amazing group at the plate.

Of course, offense is only one part of the equation and forgetting that outfields play defense as well as hit is kind of a problem for the purposes of this exercise.

Kemp’s hips and legs are his weakness and he is now a far below-average defensive outfielder, coming in at -23 in Defensive Runs Saved last year. Myers was at -7 and has very little experience as a center fielder, having spent most time in right. Upton, though statistically the best of the three at 0.0 in Defensive Runs Saved, has never been all that good himself with the leather. It’s also worth noting that Petco Park has a LOT of ground to cover.

So, the best outfield in baseball? I’d have to say no, because running down fly balls and cutting balls off in the gap to hold batters to singles instead of doubles is a pretty big damn part of the game. Especially in a pitchers’ park. Especially in a run-starved era. For that reason I’d take the Marlins, Nationals or Pirates outfield over San Diego’s. And I’d even go so far to say that, if I were a betting man, I’d bet that we’ll see more commentary this summer about the problem of the Padres’ defense than we will see about the Padres’ outfield driving San Diego towards greatness.

Mark Lerner says Nationals can’t afford both Anthony Rendon and Stephen Strasburg

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The defending champion Washington Nationals may have to replace two star players in third baseman Anthony Rendon and starter Stephen Strasburg as both are free agents. Both are represented by agent Scott Boras and both are expected to command lucrative contracts. As a result, Nationals managing principal owner Mark Lerner said the club can’t afford to bring back both players, Todd Dybas of NBC Sports Washington reports.

Lerner told Donald Dell in an interview, “We really can only afford to have one of those two guys. They’re huge numbers. We already have a really large payroll to begin with.”

As Dybas notes, there are myriad reasons why Lerner would say this publicly. If Lerner had instead said, “Yeah, we’re filthy stinking rich, especially coming off of a World Series win. We could afford to get every free agent if we wanted to,” then the Nationals would have no leverage in negotiations. Creating artificial scarcity increases the Nationals’ leverage when negotiating with Boras and his clients. And as Dybas also points out, Lerner’s statement also prepares fans for an unsatisfactory outcome not unlike when the club took itself out of the running to bring back outfielder Bryce Harper earlier this year. This not to say Lerner’s statement is justified; it’s just how things work in the current system.

Lerner also defended the Nationals’ approach to free agency. He said, “They think you’re really back there printing money and it’s whoever goes to the highest bidder. It’s not that way at all. You give these fellas — there’s a negotiation that goes on, but…We’ve been pretty successful in free agency over time. You’re not going to get everybody. Certain players may want to go home, closer to where their home is. You never know the reason why people move on. But, we’ve been very successful. Probably one of the most successful teams in free agency the last 10 years. We’re very proud of our record. But, again, I think people have to realize, it’s not all up to us.”

It is true that the Nationals have been one of the most active teams in free agency in recent years. In a league that has otherwise done the opposite, they deserve some credit for that. But the Nationals are also keenly aware of the competitive balance tax threshold, which teams use as a de facto salary cap. They don’t have to, but they choose to because it’s a convenient structure that allows them to limit expenditures.

At the end of the day, it’s baseball’s financial structure that is rotten. It forces constant misinformation out of everyone’s mouths so as to protect their financial interests and leverage, and incentivizes teams to value profits above all. In a perfect world, MLB team owners wouldn’t need to cry poor every offseason, but we don’t live in such a world.