The Los Angeles Dodgers have gotten a big reinforcement off the disabled list with superstar center-fielder Matt Kemp’s recent activation. If Kemp is able to move past the litany of injuries he has endured over the past two seasons, most recently an offseason of ankle and shoulder surgery, he gives the Dodgers a potentially prolific outfield. The caveat is that the team has four high-profile outfielders making an extraordinary amount of money for only three positions.
For most teams, having four good outfielders is a necessity. The problem with the situation concerning the Dodgers is that Kemp, Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier are making a combined $56.75 million in 2014. One of the three will be out of the lineup on any given day because the young lightning rod Yasiel Puig has a stranglehold on right field.
The outrageous paychecks being handed to Kemp, Ethier and Crawford automatically labels them as superstars, which they all have undoubtedly been for the majority of their careers. None will be pleased seeing extended amounts of time on the bench. According to ESPN, Kemp was already miffed with manager Don Mattingly on his first day back from the disabled list due to his exclusion from the lineup. Luckily for him, that took care of itself when Puig showed up late to the ballpark and was benched, so Kemp ultimately was in the game for the Dodgers’ home opener.
While all four outfielders are huge names and too good to be bench players, they need to check their egos at the door for the betterment of the team. Having four outfielders for Mattingly to mix and match makes this team much better than trading any of them would. Kemp and Crawford have proven to be extremely injury-prone in recent years. Crawford and Ethier are also horrendous at hitting left-handed pitching. Puig cannot go 15 minutes without landing on TMZ for some off-the-field charade. More than anything, Crawford and Ethier simply have not lived up to their contracts. Neither is close to the players they once were. Both have performed more like role players in recent years, especially Crawford. The best thing for the team would be for those two to accept how abysmal they are against left-handed pitching and understand that a platoon is the best thing for the Dodgers.
The Dodgers have made their bed as the highest-paid team in baseball and now will be forced to lie in it. Keeping four good outfielders happy when they make the money they do will be a bit of a task, but it is the only solution at the time being. The only one of the four who has much trade value is Puig since he is the youngest, most talented and healthiest. The team did explore trading Kemp or Ethier this past offseason, but teams are not lining up at the door to acquire players who make $15-20 million a year with a number of years left on a contract, recent severe injuries and advanced age.
Much negativity has surrounded the Dodgers’ outfield situation, although Matt Kemp’s return is nothing but a positive. The Dodgers finally have all four outfielders healthy for the time being. There is no such thing as too much depth in the major leagues, as anything can happen over the course of a 162-game season. It is not as if the Dodgers have three Mike Trouts in the outfield with one obvious trade candidate. All four have strengths and weaknesses and can push this team over the hump if they can put their egos aside.
Commentary by Justin Hussong
Guardian Liberty Voice Sports Writer for the Los Angeles Dodgers