The Dodgers have just announced that Matt Kemp will be joining the team for Spring Training at Camelback Ranch in two weeks. It seems like the front office has a very short memory. Three years ago, the Dodgers wisely traded Kemp to the Padres, who then traded him to the Braves in 2017. When the Dodgers traded Kemp away, it seemed like we would only seem him in the first base dugout at Dodger Stadium. However, this offseason, the Dodgers decided to bring Kemp back. They traded away four players and cash for the thirty-three-year-old left fielder. Today at Fanfest, they announced that he will be joining them for Spring Training.
Kemp’s last stint with the Dodgers did not go well. He didn’t get along with his manager, Don Mattingly (now managing the Marlins), and he also didn’t get along with the young and immature Yasiel Puig. He also seemed to enjoy getting ejected from games. By the time the Dodgers traded him away, Kemp had left a very sour taste in Dodger fans’ mouths. Most of us were glad to see him leave.
So why did the Dodgers trade to bring him back? And why do they want to give him another chance? They brought him back to cut down on the 2018 payroll. That’s the easy question to answer. But why do they want to give him another chance? I don’t really know. They say he’s lost a lot of weight and he’s healthy. That could be the reason. But it’s really hard to tell.
If Kemp makes the roster, there are a few things that need to change. First, he needs to have more respect for authority. Dave Roberts’ clubhouse is not one that tolerates rebels. He needs to respect his manager much better than when Mattingly was the skipper. He also needs to keep out of fights with umpires. Whenever he disagreed with a call, he yelled so much that he would get kicked out of games. This needs to stop. Second, both he and Puig need to mature. We have already seen Puig mature a lot in three years, but he and Kemp did not use to like each other. They will need to put their differences aside and work together to help the Dodgers win. If they don’t, you can drop all your expectations of a World Championship.
The third thing that needs to happen is he needs to win the fight for left field. Chris Taylor already has secured his spot in center, and Puig already has his spot in right. This leaves Joc Pederson, Kiké Hernández, Trayce Thompson, Alex Verdugo, and Andrew Toles to compete with Kemp for left field.
Hernández is likely going to keep his roles as a utility player, so he’s not likely to make much competition. Thompson will need to bounce back from a very disappointing 2017 season. Toles will see his first action since his surgery to repair his ACL, so we’ll see what he can do. Verdugo is hungry for more big league action after getting a taste of it this October. Because of this, it seems like Pederson is the best choice.
I don’t really understand why the Dodgers want to keep Kemp on the team. If I were in control, he wouldn’t be. But I guess that if he shows up at Spring Training ready to work and get along with his teammates, I may rethink my opinion on Kemp.