Archive for Matt Kemp
Four questions and four answers this week. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything throughout the week, mailbag questions or otherwise.
Travis asks: Do you think a trade with San Diego for Chris Denorfia could work? Denorfia had a .337/.390/.500 slash line with 15 walks and 16 strikeouts in 178 at bats against lefties in 2012.
Denorfia, 32, has very quietly emerged as one of the best right-handed platoon outfielders in baseball over the last few seasons. Since joining the Padres in 2010, he’s hit .281/.339/.423 (115 wRC+) overall and .323/.388/.468 (142 wRC+) against southpaws. He rarely strikes out (9.9 K%) against left-handers, can steal the occasional base, and grades out as average or better defensively in the corners. Denorfia would be a fantastic target for that righty outfield platoon bat role, but the Padres just signed him to a two-year extension and I doubt they’re looking to trade him.
Now, Denorfia is not San Diego’s only right-handed platoon bat. They also have 28-year-old Jesus Guzman, who’s hit .276/.339/.439 (118 wRC+) overall as a big leaguer and .311/.387/.509 (150 wRC+) against lefties. He doesn’t make as much contact as Denorfia (16.0 K%) and he won’t steal as many bases, but he draws walks (10.4 BB%) and can play all four corner positions while also filling in at second in a pinch. Guzman was a bit of a late-bloomer who didn’t stick in the show until 2011.
While Denorfia just received his new contract, there was actually some talk the Padres might non-tender Guzman a few weeks ago. I was planning to write a Scouting The Market post the very next day had they cut him loose. Instead, they’re going to bring him to camp and see how the bench shakes out. If there’s no room — San Diego has a ton of bench players to sort through in Spring Training — they could trade him or just option him down to Triple-A for depth. Denorfia would be nice, but I think there’s a much better chance of Guzman actually being available at some point. Needless to say, the Yankees should have interest in both.
A few people asked: What about Domonic Brown?
It’s that time of year again, huh? The Phillies continue to show no interest in giving the 25-year-old Brown a legitimate chance, this time signing Delmon Young (!) to play right field everyday. Not only are they not giving him a chance, but now they’re slapping him in the face in the process.
Anyway, I’m pretty much over Brown at this point. He didn’t look so hot during his 212 plate appearance cameo last summer (.235/.316/.396, 91 wRC+), plus he played awful defense. Like, maybe he should be a first baseman defense. Brown is out of options, meaning he’ll have to go through waivers to go back to Triple-A, plus the Yankees don’t really have a need for another left-handed hitting outfielder. I suppose there’s the DH spot, but meh. The Phillies did Brown no favors by jerking him around these last few years, but at some point we have to assign some blame to the player as well. I’m at that point and wouldn’t give up much of anything for him.
Justin asks: With the Diamondbacks loaded on young pitching, should the Yankees try and pry away Pat Corbin from them?
Corbin, 23, was part of the trade that sent Dan Haren to the Angels a few years ago. He made his big league debut last season and pitched to a 4.54 ERA (4.00 FIP) in 107 innings spread across 17 starts and five relief appearances. The strikeout (7.23 K/9 and 18.9 K%), walk (2.10 BB/9 and 5.5 BB%), and ground ball (45.7%) rates were all pretty strong. Certainly a solid showing for a rookie.
The Diamondbacks added yet another young arm yesterday, getting Randall Delgado in the Justin Upton trade. Delgado, Corbin, and Tyler Skaggs (another part of the Haren trade and one of the best pitching prospects in baseball) will compete for the team’s fifth rotation spot in Spring Training. The two losers will go to Triple-A and serve as depth. Kevin Towers is a pitching guy and will stockpile arms until the cows come home.
Baseball America (subs. req’d) said Corbin “projects as a No. 4 starter” before last season because he doesn’t light up the radar gun and none of his offspeed pitches is a true swing-and-miss offering. He’s almost like a left-handed (and slightly younger) David Phelps. That’s someone who is nice to have, but not someone you go all out to acquire. Corbin would be nice to have in stock come 2014 after Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, and Phil Hughes all hit free agency, but I think the Yankees should use their trade chips to acquire a bat first. That’s a much more pressing need.
Tucker asks: Back in the 2010-11 offseason, there was speculation of a Robinson Cano-for-Matt Kemp trade. In hindsight, would you have made the move?
I’m pretty sure that was much earlier than 2010-2011, no? I thought it was during the 2008-2009 offseason, after Robbie had his awful year. That’s usually when fans conjure up trade scenarios for players, after their down seasons. Anyway, I remember the idea was to trade Cano for Kemp and sign Orlando Hudson to take over at second base.
I was all for that trade at the time (not so much signing Hudson, but I digress) because I thought Kemp would turn into a star (he has!) and Cano would settle in a solid second baseman (he’s been much, much better than that). That was back when the Yankees were looking at replacing both Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui in the near future, and before they acquired Nick Swisher or had seen what Brett Gardner could do in a full season. There was a need for an outfielder and I was all for such a trade.
Now, looking at this in hindsight is another matter. Cano’s been the better hitter (138 vs. 135 wRC+), the better defender (by a mile), and the healthier player (again by a mile) over the last four seasons. Kemp has the advantage in base-running (by a mile) and in terms of contracts ($21M vs. $39M). Despite the significant difference in salary, I would have not done that trade in hindsight. I valuable durability and Cano never ever misses a game. But, as I said, I was all for it at the time and it’s not like Kemp is chopped liver either.
The Dodgers’ ownership situation is a total mess at the moment, but that didn’t stop the club from locking up Matt Kemp for the better part of a decade. The center fielder and likely NL MVP agreed to an eight-year contract extension worth $160M yesterday, securing the kind of deal that only comes along when 27-year-old center fielders have MVP-caliber seasons. Funny how that worked out.
Many Yankees fans, myself included, were already fitting Kemp for pinstripes since he was due to become a free agent after next season. Nick Swisher‘s contract also expires then, so naturally the Yankees would just sign one of the very best players in the world to fill the right field void, he’d crush opposite field bombs like this, and we’d all live happily ever after. I had a feeling the Dodgers would find a way to keep Kemp long-term (it’s only a matter of time before they sign Clayton Kershaw long-term as well), but now that dream scenario of signing him after next season is officially the table.
The Yankees still have to figure out what’s going on in right field though, because there isn’t anyone in the farm system coming up to fill the void and the idea of moving Jesus Montero or Derek Jeter out there is just a pipe dream. The free agent market without Kemp still boasts some star caliber names, but none are as young or offensively dominant as the Dodgers’ cornerstone. Josh Hamilton is a great story, but he’ll be 32 shortly after Opening Day 2013 and has had major problems staying healthy in recent years. It’s fair to wonder how his past substance abuse will hinder his ability to stay on the field down the road. Andre Ethier can’t hit lefties (.270 wOBA vs. LHP last three years) and is arguably the worst defensive outfielder in the game. Unless you happen to have a strong affinity for Carlos Quentin or Shane Victorino, there’s not much else to see here.
Without Kemp on the market, it’s entirely possible that the Yankees’ best long-term option in right field is the guy they have out there right now. Swisher certainly isn’t without his faults, but he’s extremely durable, hits for power from both sides of the plate, and catches everything he’s supposed to in the outfield. The Yankees know him (and his medical history) better than anyone else, and he offers a level of certainty that I really don’t see in the other candidates. Hamilton is the high upside play, but he could easily turn into the position player version of Carl Pavano. If a reasonable agreement – say three years or so – can be worked out between the Yankees and Swisher, then that is probably the team’s best bet with Kemp now a non-option.
Thankfully, the right field question isn’t one that needs an answer right now. The Yankees have an above-average player set to man the position in 2012 and twelve months for the market to develop. Trade options could emerge, internal options could emerge, all sorts of stuff can happen. Unfortunately Matt Kemp won’t be the answer, but that’s okay. That’ll give the Yankees more money to spend on pitching anyway.
I promised a Jesus Montero-free mailbag last week, so here it is. Instead you get a whole bunch of Dodgers-related questions, which seems like nothing more than a coincidence. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send in your questions throughout the week.
Evan asks: With the ongoing drama regarding the Dodgers and Frank McCourt, it’s looking more and more likely that Matt Kemp will hit the open market following the 2012 season. What type of contract do you think he will receive? Could it be the largest in baseball?
Kemp’s season was basically Curtis Granderson‘s season plus another 10-15% on top of it. He hit .324/.399/.586 with 39 homers and 40 steals, which works out to a .419 wOBA. All that happened in one of the game’s best pitchers’ parks and in a lineup with zero protection (if you believe in protection). He was a monster this year, I think the obvious NL MVP and arguably the best player in all of baseball.
Reportedly, Kemp will not talk about a contract extension once the 2012 season starts. He can be a free agent after next season (MLBTR projects his 2012 salary at $16.3M), and his agent says he isn’t giving a hometown discount. If Kemp has another year like this one, which is very possible because he is that talented and just turned 27 in September, I think we’re talking Joe Mauer money on the open market (eight years, $184M). He’s not a Scott Boras client, which will cost him some money and likely prevent him from getting an Alex Rodriguez contract, but he’s so young and so productive that it wouldn’t surprise me if he got it anyway. Who will give it to him though? The Yankees with at least three $100M+ deals already on the books? The Red Sox? The Tigers? Maybe the Rangers since Josh Hamilton will be off the books? Someone’s going to pay Kemp huge money and deservedly so.
Reggie asks: What’s the chances that Hiroki Kuroda could be swayed from returning to the Dodgers or Japan with a lucrative two-year offer? Kuroda could simply be trying to gain some leverage in talks with east coast teams. How awesome would it be to have a rotation featuring both Kuroda and Yu Darvish! The stadium would turn into lil Tokyo two days a week.
I think the economic impact of high-profile Japanese players is easy to overstate (we’ve seen studies about how revenue Hideki Matsui actually generated), but it’s definitely real. That’s neither here nor there though.
We’re Kuroda fans here at RAB, dating back to last offseason when we considered him the best Plan B behind Cliff Lee. The Yankees like him as well, judging by the fact that they wanted him in August 2010 and before the 2011 trade deadline. The 36-year-old right-hander (37 in February) still makes a ton of sense for New York on a short-term contract, but he likes Los Angeles so much that he took a below market contract to stay their last year and refused to waive his no-trade clause to come east at the deadline. Two years might be pushing it at Kuroda’s age, but I would much prefer that to five years for C.J. Wilson or four years for Edwin Jackson.
Mark asks: How would you feel about a deal for Chad Billingsley that centered around Eduardo Nunez and someone like Adam Warren or D.J. Mitchell? Given his mileage and down year, would that be too much?
No, I don’t think that would be too much at all. I like Adam Warren, but I’d drive him and Nunez to the airport myself if it meant getting a guy like Billingsley. He’s young (27), signed affordably through 2014 ($32M plus a $14M option for 2015), durable (at least 31 starts and 188 IP in each of the last four years), and really effective (3.52 FIP last four years). Even if that shoots up to a 4.00 FIP in the AL East, he’s still a really good pitcher.
My biggest concern is that Billingsley’s strikeout and swing-and-miss rates have declined every year since 2008 while his walk rate has hovered closer to 4.0 BB/9 than 3.0 BB/9. Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness dubbed him “a conundrum, consistently inconsistent” just yesterday. On the bright side, he is a ground ball guy (47.3% last four years) and has only been on the DL once (16 days for a groin strain in 2010). Definite pluses.
I look at Billingsley almost like another Ubaldo Jimenez, and I think it would take a similar kind of package to get him. Ned Colletti isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, especially when it comes to making trades (as he’s shown with Casey Blake, Octavio Dotel, etc.), so perhaps that makes it easier to acquire the right-hander. I’d include Dellin Betances in a package for Billingsley no questions asked, but not Manny Banuelos and certainly not Montero. Betances plus two lesser pieces (Mitchell? Brandon Laird?) would be ideal, but probably not realistic.
Nick asks: Could the Yankees trade for Scott Elbert?
Sure they could. I have no idea how open the Dodgers would be to moving the lefty, who emerged as a dominant late-inning reliever in 2011 after going back and forth to Triple-A for a few years. The 26-year-old held same-side hitters to a .191/.267/.250 batting line this year (75 plate appearances), though the 18 strikeouts don’t really blow you away. Elbert battled some serious arm problems in the minors, which is why he can’t start anymore, but he’s still a power arm with a low-90′s fastball and high-80′s slider capable of doing the lefty specialist thing. He’d be a fine trade target, but I hope the Yankees don’t overpay for a LOOGY.
Jon asks: What are your thoughts on Mark Buehrle?
Brad asks: What are the details of Mark Buehrle’s contract situation? If memory serves, he is a free agent this year. He’s a durable lefty with a proven track record. Would he be a viable signing for the Yankees?
Yep, he is a free agent this winter, and just to get this out of the way, I can only see Buehrle pitching in two places next season: with the White Sox, or for his hometown Cardinals. He’d made it known in the past that he would only waive his no-trade clause to pitch in St. Louis, and he’s also discussed retirement if the right deal doesn’t come along.
Anyway, I’m not much of a Buehrle fan. He’s the definition of a soft-tosser, keeping hitters off balance with a mid-80′s fastball (both two- and four-seamers), a low-80′s cutter, a high-70′s changeup, and a low-80′s curveball. The 32-year-old southpaw (33 in March) doesn’t strike anyone out (three straight sub-4.80 K/9 seasons) and doesn’t get a ton of ground balls (sub-45.7% last three years), but he is stingy with ball four (no worse than a 2.14 BB/9 since 2003).
Buehrle’s a classic wily ol’ veteran that just knows how to pitch and keep his team in games and [insert cliche here]. His value is in his innings (just finished his 11th straight year of 200+ IP) and veteran presents. Viable signing? Sure, but a) I don’t see it happening, and b) definitely not with the expectation of him being a number two starter. Buehrle’s had a great career, but you don’t want to be the one on the hook when the other shoe drops.
Dave asks: We all know about the weak free agent class for starting pitchers this year, but I’m interested in next year’s pitchers. Or more specifically, which of next year’s free agents (or the following year) might be made available at the trade deadline, a la Ubaldo. Cole Hamels probably won’t be made available, but maybe Clayton Kershaw? BTW, I still refer to this post for future free agent pitchers.
Next year’s free agent class is right here, and it’s loaded with pitchers. Hamels, John Danks, Matt Cain, Shaun Marcum, Zack Greinke, Francisco Liriano … the list goes on and on. I think Cain is by far the most likely to sign an extension, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Hamels does as well. Danks and Liriano could definitely be on the block if the White Sox and Twins fall out of the race early, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Brewers try to flip Greinke for something better than two draft picks if they struggle without Prince Fielder. I’d be surprised if Tim Lincecum or Josh Johnson, two guys that will become free agents after 2013, hit the trade market this summer. Heck, in Lincecum’s case, I’d be surprised if he ever hits the trade market. He’s the definition of a franchise pitcher.