Trading Matt Kemp = 5 Years of Mediocrity

Dodgers designated Charlie Haeger for assignment today. Jon Link was called up. Link has shown he’s decent, or at least worth a shot over Haeger from the bullpen, so this doesn’t change a whole lot. Haeger was easily the worst Dodger pitcher of the season, but the Dodgers’ turns with replacement players have been not fun.

Carlos Monasterios is still on the DL, but the good news is Chad Billingsley should return on Monday, according to Rotoworld.

Ken Rosenthal today suggested the Dodgers trade Matt Kemp to the Mariners for Cliff Lee, completely glossing over the fact that the Dodgers’ pitching problems are almost solely because of the bullpen. Not that trading for Lee wouldn’t be awesome, but the Dodgers would need to fill Kemp’s offensive hole and a 110 OPS+ from centerfield is pretty dang good. Right now, it’s about 8th best from an everyday CF starter this year, and the two in front of him don’t look sustainable.

Talent ebbs and flows, that’s just something you have to deal with. Rosenthal, who played coy this off-season before predicting the Halladay-to-the-Phillies and ensuing Lee-to-the-Mariners trades, or his intel in the Dodgers organization seem(s) to believe the Dodgers won’t be playing for anything past 2010. There’s no replacement in the organization for Kemp.

It’s silly that the Dodgers would trade away such a cheap solution (and sell-low at that) in shallow-pocket times with no one coming up in the future.

Here’s the Dodgers’ money obligations through 2015. A pretty cursory glance says the Dodgers are gonna have a good chance to get back into the division in 2012. Andre Ethier, Kemp, Russell Martin, Billingsley, Loney and Kuo will be in their final year of arbitration and Clayton Kershaw and Blake DeWitt will be in their first year. So that’s five position players, two starting pitchers and one awesome reliever who will still be playing together by that point. The rest will be filled in as the off-seasons unfold. If the Dodgers don’t sign Lee or another non-filler rotation arm in the 2011 off-season, there’s plenty more where that comes from in the 2012 off-season.

Here‘s free agent pitchers at the end of this season. And here‘s free agents at the end of the 2011 season. A front end of the rotation starter won’t be hard to pick up, especially considering the Dodgers’ ownership divorce woes should be over before the start of the 2011 season AND the Dodgers will lose $35 million at the end of the 2010 season. A good portion of that money will go to arbitration, but not all of it.

The one thing that’d be very, very hard to replace is a cost-controlled potential 6-win starting centerfielder with a long, healthy rapsheet. You can sign Cliff Lee in the off-season, but you can’t sign Kemp. Kemp’s defense may never be great, but his bat puts him in exclusive territory. And worst case scenario, move him to right field next season, move Ethier to left and sign a good defensive centerfielder. Carl Crawford will be available. Or Colletti can trade an outfielder like Jerry Sands, who was promoted to AA this past week, or Kyle Russell to a team with a decent above-average defensive CF, like the Red Sox for Mike Cameron.

Without Kemp, the future looks muck bleaker for the Dodgers. No Kemp means no good third outfield bat. It means an at-best outfield replacement and while Cliff Lee is very, very good, it still doesn’t address the bullpen problems. It actually creates a line-up problem. (Dear Matt Kemp, please understand that everyone in this city thinks you’re the poop. Love, Los Angeles Dodger Fans).

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Filed under Hot stove, Los Angeles Dodgers, MLB

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