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November 18, 2011

Transaction Analysis

Kemp Stays in LA

by R.J. Anderson

LOS ANGELES DODGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Signed OF-R Matt Kemp to an eight-year extension worth $160 million. [11/14]

It does not suck to be Matt Kemp. He may not win the National League’s Most Valuable Player award, but he should remain in high spirits after agreeing to an extension with a $20 million average annual value.

The extension comes on the heels of a career season for Kemp, who hit .324/.399/.586 with 39 home runs in 2011. A prospective free agent-to-be after the 2012 season, Kemp set the stage for himself by setting career-highs in nearly every conceivable category, including Wins Above Replacement Player (8.9, eclipsing his previous career high of 5.5). With the Dodgers’ ownership and therefore financial situation in disarray, there had to be a sense of pessimism within the fan base and front office about their chances of retaining Kemp’s services, and yet here we are. Kemp’s new contract calls for him to play his baseball with the Dodgers through his 35th birthday. 

The early consensus on the signing goes something like this: superstar contract for a player who has only shown glimpses of being a superstar. At least half of that thought is correct. Kemp becomes the 16th player to sign a contract with an annual average value equaling or exceeding $20 million and the third active outfielder with such a deal, joining Ryan Braun and Carl Crawford. Comparing Kemp to Braun or Crawford is an imperfect science. Braun’s five-year extension with an annual average value of $21 million was just an addition to a pre-existing contract. Crawford, meanwhile, received his payday on the open market. Still, the perception of these players following the season prior to signing their big deals probably goes against reality. Just consider their statistics:

Player

BA/OBP/SLG

WARP/600 PA

AAV

Crawford (through 2010)

.296/.337/.444

3.66

$20M

Braun (through 2010)

.307/.364/.554

4

$21M

Kemp (through 2011)

.294/.350/.496

4.05

$20M

No, WARP/600 PA is not a fancy new creation from Colin Wyers’s lab. Rather, it is just the rate measure of the player’s production to date prorated to a season’s worth of playing time, thus enabling comparisons across various playing time plateaus. Since WARP also takes into account park-adjusted offensive numbers and Kemp plays in a pitcher’s park, his contributions hold more weight when viewed in the raw slash line form.  There will be some who point out that Kemp’s WARP numbers are skewed due to his big 2011 season, and others that suggest that his position is the reason why his defensive metrics are what they are. Both are valid concerns, however, those same concerns apply to Crawford.

What matters more to the Dodgers than Kemp’s past is his future. Blessed with a power and speed blend, Kemp’s nickname—The Bison—fits. Add in the cannon arm and contact ability, and Kemp has the tools of a special player. It appears that Kemp may have taken a step forward in his plate approach, too, as he walked in more than 10 percent of his plate appearances for the first time in his major league career in 2011. Another aspect of Kemp’s game that he showed progress with this season is his baserunning. Dodgers’ third base coach Davey Lopes received credit throughout the season in helping fine tune Kemp’s baserunning, and the results were a career-high steals total (at a 78 percent success rate) and career-high Equivalent Base Running Runs (4.6).

Kemp will need to continue to produce on the basepaths heading forward, because he is unlikely to post a .350 True Average again. That is not a knock against his skills, just the reality of the situation. From 2007-2010, six players with 500-plus plate appearances managed .350 True Averages or higher, and only two (Albert Pujols in 2008-2009 and Miguel Cabrera in 2010-2011) managed to top .350 in the next season. Kemp seems more likely to post a True Average closer to his career-.298 heading forward.

This is where the questions about Kemp’s defense and future positions again come into play. At some point Kemp is going to move to a corner outfield spot; it is to anyone’s guess as to whether that comes after Andre Ethier leaves or if it is put off until Kemp reaches the wrong side of 30. In the interim, Kemp’s value metrics are going to take a beating due to his defense, with the degree depending on your defensive metric of choice. Even so, expecting Kemp to be a four-to-five-win player annually seems like a fair bet. If the market value of a win is in the four-to-five million range, or even higher with inflation, then Kemp making $20 million per season is just about right.

The other aspect to discuss is just how Kemp’s extension affects the Dodgers’ long-term plans. Shy of retaining Ethier, the Dodgers will have four expensive non-Kemp commitments after the 2012 season: Ted Lilly (one year $12 million), Chad Billingsley (two years, $23 million, with a $14 million club option in 2015), and Juan Uribe (one year, $7 million). The ambiguous one is Clayton Kershaw, who is arbitration eligible for the first time this offseason and could be in line for his own massive deal.

Keep in mind that these are the Dodgers. Frank McCourt aside, this should be an organization able to throw around its financial girth more often than an isolated incident here and there. That should ease the qualm most people will have with handing Kemp a giant contract with a year of team control remaining. There is risk involved with any eight-year deal, and Kemp is not the exception. And yet, if Kemp has another big season, or if other teams in the league view him as a potential superstar, then the Dodgers may have saved themselves money by re-signing him now.  Add in the goodwill generated for a franchise that could use some, and the Dodgers are making a worthy enough gamble.

R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here

39 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Brian Kopec

GM thought process:
"Player X just had a career year. Now I realize we almost ran him out of town only 12 months ago, but he will be a free agent after next season. I can't think of any reason to wait until next year to sign him to a long term, market rate contract."

Nov 14, 2011 13:48 PM
rating: 2
 
Deadheadbrewer

Yes--Here in Minnesota we're all still a bit depressed that the Twins decided to extend Mauer immediately following his best-ever season.

Nov 15, 2011 07:46 AM
rating: 1
 
gerrybraun

Kemp is also younger than Braun and Crawford, no?

Nov 14, 2011 13:54 PM
rating: 1
 
RedsManRick

McCourt's thinking: Will this increase the sale price? Yes? Done.

Nov 14, 2011 14:07 PM
rating: 2
 
Domenik Hixon

A reasonable comparable for Kemp would be Carlos Beltran in his prime (when he signed with the Mets, though Kemp is two years younger than Beltran was and will probably hit for a little more power and average with a much greater likelihood of staying healthy.

Assuming Kemp rolls out six years of .295/.375/.515 (or .295-35-115-25) with good to average defense in center field for the majority of that, is he worth 20mm in today's dollars for each of those years? The answer is pretty obviously "yes". Kemp came to baseball later in his youth and continues to mold his athletic talent (he may be the best pure athlete in baseball) into the confines of his chosen sport. Clearly, giving *any* player an eight year contract is a "bad" idea, but Kemp's expected production and rate of attrition to said productivity make him the best possible bet for an agreement of such length and value.

Nov 14, 2011 15:07 PM
rating: 1
 
juiced

I guess I dont see the wisdom in locking up 15-20% of one's payroll in a single player for nearly a decade, with most of those years coming after he's 30 and with the Dodgers unlikely to contend immediately anyway in the earlier years.

Nov 14, 2011 16:15 PM
rating: 0
 
lesmash

What I want to see is a team have the guts to sign a player like Matt Kemp to an 8-year deal coming off his 2010 season. Instead of $160 million, what might Kemp have gotten? Maybe in the range of $108 million, or $13 million per season? That's a heckuva savings if you think you know how to properly evaluate talent. And isn't talent evaluation sort of the job of a MLB GM?

Nov 14, 2011 17:54 PM
rating: 2
 
Michael Bodell
(89)

An outfielder for $13 million a season? Please, that's Jose Batista's salary in his 5 year deal. But maybe you can under pay him because he sometimes plays 3b too for position flexibility?

Nov 15, 2011 00:43 AM
rating: 1
 
SGreenwell

If Kemp has decent representation at all though, they probably point out that it isn't fair market value for him. That's about a $7 million per year discount. The $100+ million sounds nice, and there are precautionary tales like Nomar out there, but at least IMO, most truly elite players like Kemp seem to properly value their own talents.

Nov 15, 2011 09:24 AM
rating: -1
 
lesmash

Sorry, bad arithmetic . . . $13 million per season x 8 years is $104 million, not $108 million.

Nov 14, 2011 17:55 PM
rating: 0
 
dodgerken222

I don't see why the Dodgers can't contend in Kemp's earlier years. This is the NL West, after all. Padres, D-Backs, Giants, Rockies...they've all risen and fallen drastically over the past few years and none of them looks like the Phillies. LA has a big hole at catcher at the moment, and I'm assuming Kuroda is coming back, but in a division where it may take 88 wins to win it, I think LA can contend in '12.

Nov 14, 2011 19:26 PM
rating: 0
 
juiced

Dodgers contend in '12? Their lineup now is C Ellis 1b Rivera 2b Ellis SS Gordon 3b Uribe Lf Rivera Cf Kemp Rf Eithier. They are either going to lose their second best starter in Kuroda or have to pay a pretty penny to keep him. They will be weaker than they were in '11, and the Giants will be stronger with a modicum of better injury luck and the development of Belt.

Nov 14, 2011 19:58 PM
rating: 1
 
juiced

Sands in left not Rivera. Same conclusion, they will be mediocre in '12.

Nov 14, 2011 20:00 PM
rating: -1
 
vtadave

Yep, because it's already November 14. No time to improve the club in other areas.

Nov 14, 2011 22:01 PM
rating: 3
 
juiced

Well, how much money do you expect that they'll have available to spend after maybe reupping Kuroda for 10 mil? They've already spent 5 on Mark frickin Ellis. Mind you they are spending all this money just to retain their existing roster, not bring in new improvements like Fielder.

Nov 14, 2011 22:39 PM
rating: 0
 
juiced

For example, their next reported target is Matt Treanor. Lol.

Nov 14, 2011 23:20 PM
rating: 0
 
dodgerken222

I don't recall that the Diamondbacks made any big improvements before last season, aside from bringing in Putz. They won 66 games in 2010. The Dodgers were 82-79 last season. Yeah, they haad a career year from Kemp, and Kershaw broke through. They also played with an injured and powerless Andre Ethier all year. They also had an injury-racked bullpen (Broxton, Padilla) which wasn't stabilized until the second half with Jansen and Guerra. Dee Gordon over a full season will be an improvement over Furcal and whatever else they were using at short the first half. After watching Jerry Sands the last month, there is reason for optimism there. And hold off on the Treanor jokes until we see who is there when the season starts.
I think it's a safe bet that Ethier will produce at a higher level than your sacred Brandon Belt. Or Nate Sheurholz. Or even the Giants' big "acquisition" Melky Cabrera. Now there's a team the Dodgers should obviously concede the division to. And I'd rather pay some money to Mark frickin Ellis than to Willie frickin Bloomquist.
Switch to decaf, juiced.

Nov 15, 2011 07:57 AM
rating: -3
 
dodgerken222

My point originally was that yes, the Dodgers may be mediocre in '12. But in an evenly-balanced division with no obvious Phillie-like club, mediocre might be enough to contend. Once you're in the playoffs, all bets are off; the best team rarely wins.

Nov 15, 2011 08:02 AM
rating: -2
 
dodgerken222
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

One final note, Mr. Juiced. If a Dodger outfield of Sands/Rivera/Kemp/Ethier doesn't produce more than SF's Belt/Cabrera/Scheurholz and whatever else they put out there, then LA will deserve to lose. We have a (momentary) problem at catcher, but A.J. Ellis still was superior to what SF was putting out there after Posey went down. And losing Rod Barajas isn't like losing Piazza. Finally, don't be too hard on Juan Uribe. If it weren't for him, the Giants wouldn't have their only ring in SF history.

Nov 15, 2011 08:19 AM
rating: -4
 
juiced
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Look I know that LA fans must be extremely frustrated by 24 years of failing in spite of playing in the second largest market in baseball and all their structural advantages, but getting personal with a Giants fan whose franchise has dominated yours for a solid decade misses the point. The Dodgers , as currently constituted, objectively suck. It's unwise for that team's incompetent ownership of juvenile spouses to drop 160 million on a one trick pony for his nonprime years. Because they'll still suck, but they'll have less financial flexibilty to start rebuilding from ground up at multiple positions, not just a defensively stretched centerfielder. What does Eithier have over Belt other than veteran cachet? Being injury prone and powerless is who he is, not a one year fluke. And unless you've drunk the kool aid as to his gold glove, Schierholtz is twice the fielder Eithier is. The Dback analogy is inapplicable; they were a younger team of considerable potential. The Dodgers best chess move is to quit acting like they are a mega contract away from competing. Really, I'm trying to help.

Nov 15, 2011 09:00 AM
rating: -8
 
BP staff member Mike Petriello
BP staff

Kemp just turned 27. How is this contract covering his "nonprime years"?

Nov 15, 2011 09:28 AM
 
juiced

The extension is for his age 28-35 seasons. Over half of it is post prime. He's already under contract for age 27

Nov 15, 2011 09:31 AM
rating: 0
 
raygu1

The extension is for age 27-34. Kemp just turned 27 in September.

And to those who don't think LAD can contend in '12, were you saying the same about teh Dback in '11 or the Padres in '10?

Nov 15, 2011 10:45 AM
rating: 0
 
raygu1

juiced is lost....he talks about Schierholtz like he plays everyday, which is not a fact.

Nov 15, 2011 10:47 AM
rating: 0
 
juiced

Oh no, I recognize Schierholtz is a platoon player. The difference between the Giants is they also recognize that, whereas the Dodgers lose games by starting Eithier against lefties. And the point was narrower, he is a much better defensive player than Eithier. And no the extension is for ages 28-35; This season he is 27 and already under contract. The extension is for 2013 and beyond. But hey if you want to take away financial incentive for Kemp to produce in 2012 because he already scored his deal, as a Giants fan I'm all for that.

Nov 15, 2011 10:50 AM
rating: -2
 
BP staff member Mike Petriello
BP staff

Juice, I have yet to see a source that says this deal would start after 2012 rather than beginning with 2012.

Nov 15, 2011 12:05 PM
 
raygu1

juiced-how is Melky Cabrera an upgrade over Torres. Who is your shortstop in '12? second base? does Bochy still love Aubrey Huff....great signing by the way. He reverted back to Old HUff in '11....nice work Sabean.

Jealous the Giants don't have a superstar hitter like Kemp? Still upset Kershaw dominated Lincecum this year?

Nov 15, 2011 10:51 AM
rating: -1
 
juiced

Not hardly Ray, I prefer it when the Giants and Dodgers are both winning teams, its a great rivalry and makes it more enjoyable. Why would I be upset about the Giants' performance relative to the Dodgers? The Giants have dominated them for a decade plus. And as to your distraction from the Kemp issue, when did I ever say Melky was an upgrade over Torres? He's better with the bat but lesser with the glove. I hate the Huff signing, but odds are he'll improve over '11 without returning to his '10 quasi Mvp production. You can have Kershaw beating Lincecum; I'll take the 2010 trophy. The Giants are due to improve not cuz of Melky, but due to a healthy Posey and a developing Belt. The Dodgers don't have two hitters of that quality emerging or coming off injury.

Nov 15, 2011 10:56 AM
rating: -3
 
Mr. Cthulhu

I am loving this squabbling of Dodgers and Giants fans... please continue to make my day!

Nov 15, 2011 12:06 PM
rating: 8
 
juiced

Colletti just came out today saying that they are going to cut payroll for 2012 and admitted that they have little chance to sign a big bat like Fielder. So if I understand correctly, they've dropped 6.5 million in 2012 payroll to retain Juan Rivera and Mark Ellis with another million coming for Matt Treanor, and, maybe if he doesnt bolt for Japan, another 10-13 for Kuroda. But no Fielder etc. Call me a Dodger hater if you must but ovjectively those "upgrades" aren't enough to push them past Zona or SF in 2012.

Nov 15, 2011 13:53 PM
rating: 0
 
dodgerken222

Dodgers had a +32 run differential last year. SF had a -8. D-Backs won 94 games last year...think that'll happen again? Kershaw may not go 21-5, but Kennedy won't go 20-5 either. The NL West is wide open.

Nov 15, 2011 16:06 PM
rating: 3
 
Robotey

well said - every year it's anyone's division for the taking

Nov 16, 2011 17:36 PM
rating: 0
 
juiced

It's hard to argue with someone who thinks Dee Gordon is a superior player to Rafael Furcal. The Dodgers havent upgraded anywhere, and you cant count on the two stars to have career years again. You can however count on Posey and Belt to represent upgrades. And of course, Bochy's superior record in one run games spans his entire career, so it's utterly unsurprising that pythagorus didnt put the Dodgers and Mattingly ahead of Bochy and his bullpen management alchemy.

Nov 15, 2011 18:12 PM
rating: -2
 
Drew Miller

To me there is a non-trivial chance Kemp tanks, now that he has his shiny new contract. He's already had effort and interest problems in his career.

Nov 16, 2011 17:37 PM
rating: 2
 
Robotey

as a non-Dodger fan living in LA I don't buy it. He is a prideful guy, first one out of the dugout to bear-hug his teammates when they drive in the winning run. He plays all out, and for ballplayers who play that way they run into walls occassionally.

Nov 19, 2011 18:08 PM
rating: -1
 
dodgerken222

I agree. Even when he had "effort and interest problems", he was playing in 162 games. More platers should be that disinterested.

Nov 19, 2011 18:56 PM
rating: -1
 
dodgerken222

that's "players." My bad.

Nov 19, 2011 18:57 PM
rating: 0
 
Robotey

Kemp is an interesting example of an athlete who had to wait for the game to come to him; the 'gearing down' he did was often mistaken for lackadaisical play, but I saw it more as the frustration that all players can experience at trying to master the skills of a game in which failure is part of the game.

His patience at the plate this year was remarkable and demonstrated an incredible leap forward in maturity. His ability to take curves and smack line drives to left is Federer-esque, and pitchers who dared throw him fastballs all too often were serenaded by Randy Newman's signature 'I Love LA' signalling another Kemp walkoff HR (man I hate that term)

Many predicted Davey Lopes would help Kemp's SBs and many were right - note though, that these mentorships are not a given--outside of Duncan in St. Louis and Mazzone in Atlanta there are few coaches who have great track records of this kind.

If any player is worth $20 mil per for 8 years it would be a guy like Kemp at his age now. WIth some of these contracts teams must understand they are paying a little for the bargain they scored the last couple of years, and sure, when he's 34 he won't put up a $20 mil season. But if it's close to $15 mil--and it very well could be--it's money well spent.

Nov 20, 2011 14:13 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

Kemp's worth 20 million but the Dodgers had plenty of opportunity to buy out a year or two of free agency at a reduced rate. There's been evidence of his value for awhile and even his 2009 numbers would've been worth a long multi year contract at 7-8 mil per. I do think a good reason his performance wasn't a matter of waiting for the game to come to him but because he was trashed by pretty much everyone wearing Dodger blue.

Nov 22, 2011 19:31 PM
rating: 0
 
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