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Opinions about Matt Kemp abound as Winter Meetings continue in Orlando, Fla. Some sources state that the centerfielder would not be a good addition to the Red Sox. Instead, Jackie Bradley, Jr should be heir to the crown of the outfield. Others feel Kemp’s major league experience would bring some consistency and depth with Jacoby Ellsbury gone to the Yankees. Red Sox have valid concerns about Bradley’s batting (,189/.280/.337) given his performance last year. Still, he is healthy, young, and strikes me as a player that would quickly remedy his weaknesses.
Kemp played in 73 games during the 2013 season for the Los Angelese Dodgers. He had trouble from stem to stern with ankle and shoulder injuries. In the 2011 and 2012 seasons, Kemp held impressive batting line of .303/.367/.538 with an unbelievable 126 RBIs, 115 runs, and his second all-start appearance in 2012. The 2011 and 2012 numbers are undeniable despite the lack of clarity about whether Kemp is fit enough for the field.
In 2013, Kemp made the most of his time at the plate batting a decent .280. Awareness of his injuries should force team scouts to look less at batting average, and more at on-base percentage, which is a respectable .328. It is important to be careful when looking at statistics because they do not tell the whole story. Teams need to be wary as they review the numbers in their budget. No player is created equal, nor are they worth what they expect to be paid.
At the end of the day, the Red Sox do not need to pick up Kemp, another fixer-upper. The Red Sox should hold off, see what Bradley and what some other outfielders can do at the center-field position. Teammates, fans, and the front office do not need to worry about Bradley’s defensive acumen. They do have to worry about his bat, something that at the age of 23 he can work on and change over time. If Boston went for a productive bat, and a fair-to-middling defensive player for centerfield this would be a different discussion. This is not the case with Kemp. Andre Ethier, another Dodger name that has been thrown in the ring, played in more games last year, but his batting numbers are very similar to Kemp’s statistics. He is more worthy of attention than Kemp, but the price point may be too high at an expected $15.5 million next year with Los Angeles.
This is not the Red Sox’ last chance for an outfielder, nor the end of the conversation about the depth problem at centerfield. However, this should be the end of discussion about Matt Kemp for Ben Cherrington.
Ethier is another story.
Should we stick with Bradley at centerfield? Is he the future of our hometown team?