One reason Matt Kemp makes sense for the Red Sox and has been the subject of endless trade speculation about coming to Boston is that he’s a righthanded hitter with power. The Red Sox need a left fielder who can provide it.
Now, a few reasons it doesn’t make sense.
First, acquiring him in a deal for Jon Lester wouldn’t be wise.
It doesn’t make sense to trade Lester for the veteran Kemp because the Red Sox need to get a package of at least three top prospects, starting with center fielder Joc Pederson. The Red Sox are short on outfielders. You want to deal a star player for a haul of prospects so you can either keep them or flip them in future trades to rebuild the team for 2015.
The Red Sox don’t want to struggle again next season. They need to replenish, as they did after 2012. And they could do this because more than $72 million would be coming off the books and they have an arsenal of prospects they can deal for established major leaguers.
Second, Kemp is one of three prime righthanded hitters in Los Angeles’s lineup. With Hanley Ramirez having one of those up-and-down seasons, and with Yasiel Puig being their most consistent player, why would Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti disrupt his lineup by trading one of his best righthanded bats?
The Dodgers don’t care about being saddled with the $108 million and six years remaining on Kemp’s contract. He’s 29 years old (he turns 30 Sept. 23), so he’ll be right at the 30-year-old-plus line the Red Sox don’t want to cross on long-term commitments.
Third, Kemp is a declining player.
He’s hitting .277 with eight home runs and 40 RBIs with a .775 OPS. Since he hit 39 home runs and knocked in 126 runs in 2011, his numbers have fallen off dramtically, mostly because of injuries to his shoulder and ankle.
Now, it’s been said within the Dodgers organization and outside it that the more distance he has from his surgeries — he’s now a year removed — the closer he’ll get to the old Kemp, who was a devastating power bat.
In the interim, however, he’s been kicked out of center field, the Dodgers believing he no longer can play there.
A Dodgers source has told me not to go too far with this speculation. It’s not that Lester-to-the-Dodgers is unlikely. But the Dodgers have David Price as a bigger priority because Price is also under contract for next season and they wouldn’t have to rush to get him signed long-term. The Dodgers can compete with any team on a contract, so Price is far more attractive than Lester to them.
But if the Rays elect to keep Price at the deadline, then Lester is certainly on deck.
There are other teams involved here.
One executive said to watch the Pirates. They could package some players to send to Boston.
Another executive said to keep an eye on Seattle. Obviously, Lester is from that area, although he no longer lives there, he makes his home in the Atlanta area. But in this case Lester wouldn’t have any veto power since he doesn’t have a no-trade clause.
While the Red Sox have a lot of good prospects, trading Lester would allow them to load up for a big deal for a Giancarlo Stanton if Miami determines this offseason that Stanton doesn’t want to play there long term. Up until now, the Marlins have been operating under the assumption that Stanton wants to be there, convinced more than ever that the Marlins are going in the right direction and are willing to spend to put players around him.
The Sox also could load up for an outfielder such as Colorado’s Carlos Gonzalez.
There are some conflicting reports on the negotiations with Lester. For one, a Red Sox source claims the team tried to re-engage with Lester, but to no avail.
And the team also has not specifically been told what Lester is demanding — not in March when the Red Sox made their four-year, $70 million offer, or now.
These are uneasy times around the team. Who goes next? Jonny Gomes? Koji Uehara? Andrew Miller? Mike Napoli? Stephen Drew?
“There’s nothing imminent as it relates to the rumors you mentioned,” manager John Farrell said. “The rumors are being circulated in every clubhouse around the game right now — it’s just where we are with the deadline coming up on Thursday. And we try to do the best we can with keeping an open line of communication with each player that might be in a situation, or attached to a situation, just to put their thoughts at rest as best we can. And it’s about going out and looking to win a game tonight.”
Farrell said of Lester: “Last I checked, he’s still in our uniform. And again, to speculate on any kind of rumors is premature, but we recognize that that’s part of the time of the year.”
The players are on edge, but Farrell believes he needs to be honest with them, as he was with Jake Peavy leading up to his deal with the Giants.
“Yeah, I think it’s out of professional courtesy and professional respect to the player that you — and Ben has been very much involved in this as well — is to try, just try to keep guys up to date if there’s anything that has legitimacy to a given guy, or the fact that in many cases, if not all, it’s rumor and to put their thoughts at rest. I think everybody just wants to know where they stand and what they might anticipate. That’s the purpose behind it: to allow them to go about their work with a clear mind.
“There’s daily communication about our team. And that means if we need to make roster changes from guys coming from Pawtucket, or if there’s situations that make sense for us as an organization. Ben has got a complete staff to pull from and draw from and trust. This is about a group of people, led by Ben, trying to do what’s right for the organization.”
David Ortiz was asked about the trade rumors involving Lester.
“He’s in the top three in the league,” he said. “You don’t shuffle on that. This is a guy that is very valuable to this ball club. And he’s young, very talented, won a couple of World Series. You can’t ask for no more than what he has done. He’s in his prime. What else?”
But that’s the reality.
If the Red Sox don’t think they can sign him now, why can they sign him in the offseason?
So the most prudent thing to do is to trade him, to get a nice haul, which would be much better in quality than the Peavy deal, in which they received two top-10 Giants pitching prospects.
That’s the way to approach this. Don’t go for a declining outfielder who has had chemistry issues. The Red Sox just got rid of catcher A.J. Pierzynski for that reason.Nick Cafardo can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.