Young teams that win need a leader, leaders need a cast of characters, and injured superstars sometimes need a new start. Matt Kemp would be a perfect fit in Houston.
Matt Kemp’s 2013 campaign ended as he watched his mates fall to the St. Louis Cardinals in game six of the National League Championship Series. Matt has experienced significant injuries on his ankle, hamstring, and most notably his surgically repaired left shoulder. With the rise of Yasiel Puig, the Dodgers have four outfielders. The popular notion appears to be that the one time Los Angeles favorite Matt Kemp will be dealt this offseason. Teams like the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox have naturally come up. I would argue that the team with the best farm system in baseball would have more to offer than any team in all of MLB. That team is the Houston Astros.
Right about now you are probably thinking this article is preposterous. The Astros never make moves like this, right? Who says that they can’t? Who says that the Astros are forever a low budget team? Owner Jim Crane has promised the fans that he will build this team up when the time is right. The team is expected to see the rise of major prospects in 2014 including George Springer and Jonathan Singleton if all pans out. That is just the beginning with Mark Appel, Mike Foltynewicz, and Carlos Rodon (expected to be drafted number one overall) possibly joining the Astros staff by 2015. Oh yeah there are those Jarred Cosart and Brett Oberholtzer guys already at the big league level. We mark 2015 down as the year that things change. Well, in baseball things do not change overnight. I believe the Astros could launch an early strike on building a championship foundation in one trade. Without any further rambling, here are 10 reasons why Matt Kemp should where the “H” next season.
10. Marketing, you have to sell tickets right? The Astros attendance has been at the bottom of the league for multiple years now. Baseball is a business as much as it is about winning. Matt Kemp jersey sales will be through the roof. When a team wins with nothing but young players, it does not always generate attendance. Matt Kemp gives the Astros immediate street credibility.
9. The DH will help Matt with his injury plagued past. Sure taking $130 million dollars and six years on a contract is risky. Is it as risky however when the DH is a viable option to keep Matt fresh? Playing center field on a daily basis can beat up any athlete. With Matt needing to fully recover from his injuries, he could DH several games in 2014.
8. Athleticism is not a feature the Astros have had in recent years. The majority of Houston’s position players posses two tools at max. The best teams do not always have the best lineups or defenses. However they usually have multiple guys who feature three to five tools. Matt Kemp is a premiere five tool player which is gold in baseball. Even if he loses his speed tool at some point during the six years, he is an athlete who makes things happen. You could argue that his $160 million is actually a discount if he stays healthy.
7. Champions take risks and with the Houston attitude we have forgotten what a risk is. A lot of fans have been scared to consider other max deals since Carlos Lee. Carlos Lee was a two tool player and grossly overpaid. I feel a lot more comfortable taking a risk on one of the best all around athletes in the game. The Red Sox did not win the 2013 World Series without taking high dollar risks.
6. You will not get an impact player cheaper. When the Dodgers signed Kemp to an eight year $160 million deal prices were high but not this high. An athlete of Matt’s talents will probably cost $200 plus million at the current inflation rate. If the Astros cannot get premium free agents, a trade is probably the best option. Not to mention the Dodgers will likely send money to the Astros in the deal to clear Kemp off the books. The Dodgers, I believe, are loading up for another major deal for an infielder.
5. Matt will be the guy again . Superstar players love to be “the guy.” Two years ago Matt Kemp was the future of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Now he is just an injured outfielder who gets booed by the home crowd. The Dodgers massive changes have made Kemp just a guy. I would imagine he would like a second chance to lead a team to the promised land. Houston isn’t LA, but it is a major market and a place big time athletes generally like.
4. He is the best outfielder on the market. With an offseason dominated by Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo the Astros should have other plans. Unlike other teams who are forced to make moves through free agency, the Astros posses options. The Astros have the best farm system in baseball and need to use that chip accordingly. They have loaded up on so much pitching that multiple top fleet pitchers are now expendable. I would much rather use $130 million on a potential MVP versus corner outfielders who are almost guaranteed to be busts on major contracts. There is little faith by many that Jacoby or Shin-Soo could live up to max deals.
3. The farm system, is beyond deep. Once the Astros acquire Rodon during the 2014 draft you could logically say they have enough pitching for two starting rotations. They can afford to unload two of their top pitchers in a trade and still be okay. A farm system serves two purposes. One is to build a future, and one is to have trade assets for a major player. The Astros cannot possibly protect all of their prospects, and it would be a shame to lose them to the Rule 5 Draft. They need to be smart about how to allocate the future, while maximizing potential.
2. A winning attitude, is something Houston desperately needs. The players on this team need a leader. They need to know the front office has their back. They need to believe. Simply selling that the Astros have a good farm system is not enough. The Astros probably will not be a huge player next year, but they can get better. How often is it that we see a team make great strides one year then see them go over the top the next? Under this current model the Astros should progressively get better each of the next three years, until Carlos Correa tops it all off. They cannot do that without veteran leadership that is proven on the field and in the clubhouse. Enough of the cheap bargains.
1. Kemp, Springer, Santana/Deshields, would become possibly the best outfield combo in baseball. We know all about George Springer and what he will bring to the Astros in the future. Pairing him in the same outfield with Matt Kemp could put two 20/20 or 30/30 guys on the same team. When Domingo Santana or Delino Deshields Jr. is added to the Astros outfield, it could become sickening. There is no guarantee as to what minor league talent provides at the major league level, but I really like their chances. This is a chance for the Astros to go all in and solidify a massive lineup for the future. Putting Kemp in the lineup not only protects Springer but it should help Springer learn the game. They are similar five tool players that will thrive off of each other.
In conclusion, my idea is radical, unlikely, and probably far fetched. The Astros need to consider it however. At some point during this reclamation project, the Astros will need to add a premium player or two to be championship caliber. I do not envision them finding a player of Matt Kemp’s upside any time soon within their reach. Signing players via free agency is very difficult with other competitive teams. They will match the Astros bid for bid, and probably have a better current record. It is a tough sell, making trade options more likely. The Astros can go from a joke of a team in 2013 to a legitimate playoff contender in 2015. However, to do this they are going to need a bigger veteran presence and a game changer.