Matt Kemp should move to a corner outfield spot and be replaced in center field by Carl Crawford, says Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles.
When we talked to general manager Ned Colletti after the season, he said it’s something the team might revisit later, but is not considering for 2013. Why? Alternatives. Carl Crawford hasn’t played center field since 2008 and also will be coming off surgery. The Dodgers aren’t going to force longer throws on his reconstructed left elbow by moving him to center. Andre Ethier has played all of one career game in center field, last season in place of Kemp.
It may not be a 2013 possibility, but it should be a 2014 priority. Crawford may not be as good as Kemp in center field. But if he misplays a few more balls or can’t get to as many as Kemp would have, it will be worth it if it means Kemp plays for six months, not five. Over time, pitchers often find that they have equal if not greater arm strength once they fully heal from Tommy John surgery. It shouldn’t be a long-term impediment for Crawford.
I thought it was an interesting case to make, but thinking about it, I’m not sure I would agree.
1) How sure are we that it would improve Matt Kemp’s odds of staying healthy?
I’m unsure exactly how much risk is assumed by moving into center field from a corner and how much risk is alleviated by moving a center fielder to a corner.
Usually these moves are done for reasons of age and range, not because it necessarily keeps them healthy. Sure, Kemp crashing into a wall caused him to scuffle for a month, but the majority of the time he missed was due to hamstring injuries that weren’t related to playing the field.
Remember, the only other time he went on the DL prior to this year was when he was playing right field and this happened:
So unless walls are removed from the outfield, I don’t entirely buy that he’ll be healthier playing a corner.
2) Is passing the risk onto Carl Crawford any better?
Assuming that moving does indeed lessen the risk for Kemp, then it will heighten the risk for Crawford, and does that do the team any better?
Remember, Kemp has had one injury-prone year, but Crawford hasn’t been healthy over a whole year for two seasons, and now he’s coming off Tommy John surgery heading into 2013, which will make it three. As such, I’m not sure moving one long-term investment to decrease his risk while increasing the risk of the another long-term investment is necessarily a good idea. Furthermore, Crawford simply hasn’t played center much, so we have no idea what to expect there, as he’s spent just 3.5% of his total innings over his career patrolling center.
Yes, Kemp is far more valuable to have on the field, but having both of them healthy and productive will be key to the Dodgers success, so why take the healthier player and move him while pushing the risk to the other? Not sure I can agree with that logic.
3) I don’t think moving to a corner helps Matt Kemp’s value to the team.
Kemp is a below-average to average center fielder, but as I’ve said before, I don’t think moving him to a corner would help his defensive value much. This is primarily because I think his arm, speed, and coordination are not the problem, but rather his reads off the bat are, so moving to a corner won’t change that. Sure, he’ll be competing with less athletic outfielders at a corner, so he’s bound to improve comparatively, but I don’t think it would makeup for the 10-run difference in value that comes along with the position switch.
In other words, putting him in a corner likely takes the Dodgers out of their most valuable alignment.
With that said, given his size and value with the bat, it does make sense that the Dodgers would want to take the risk off Kemp’s body in the long-term, so I understand the suggestion that he move. The problem, of course, is that if this were the case, then perhaps the Dodgers should have thought of that before filling LF/RF/1B for the long-term.
As it is now, with the current roster, fiddling with the outfield alignment wouldn’t be helpful for Matt Kemp or the team.