Long-rumored to be in the market for veteran outfielders, the Marlins finally did something on that front. As first reported by Bob Nightengale of USA Today Wednesday morning, Matt Kemp has inked a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training.
Kemp is best known for his tenures with the Dodgers (2006-2014, 2018). He was an eight-win player during the 2011 season—in the approximation of both FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference—and finished second in the NL MVP balloting. The then-center fielder parlayed that into an eight-year, $160 million extension (which just expired).
This past year, Kemp was salary-dumped to the Reds. He survived 2019 spring training cuts, but got released in early May after stumbling out of the gate (.200/.210/.283, 1 HR in 20 G). Then the Mets took a flier on him. However, he never cracked their active roster and has been out of work since the All-Star break.
For what it’s worth, the 35-year-old made a recent public appearance during the MLB Winter Meetings. Jon Heyman of MLB Network describes him as being “in very good shape”—Kemp was heavily scrutinized several years ago for putting on too much bad weight, turning him into a liability defensively and on the base paths.
Kemp appeared to be in very good shape at the Winter Meetings. Marlins deal is chance to reestablish himself. pic.twitter.com/AKtTi80m45— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 18, 2019
Don Mattingly was Kemp’s manager with the Dodgers from 2011-2014, during which he was an elite talent (.300/.366/.524, 146 wRC+, 93 HR, 66 SB, 15.6 fWAR). It will be curious to find out how much influence Mattingly had in pushing for this deal to happen.
FNTSY Sports Radio host Craig Mish hears that Kemp will be given a legitimate shot to play for the Fish in 2020.
That strikes me as an extreme long shot, however. There is still a widely held belief that Miami is shopping for an additional outfielder, either via free agency or trade, somebody near their athletic prime and capable of being an everyday player (or close to it). Combining that mystery acquisition with their internal options (which already skew very right-handed), it would take a unique combination of preseason injuries and tangible evidence that Kemp has turned back the clock.
Will Matt Kemp play a regular season game for the Marlins in 2020?
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