After making the NL All-Star team during something of a comeback season in 2018, 2019 was a much different story for Matt Kemp, who appeared in just 20 games for the Reds. Despite that abbreviated campaign, Kemp tells Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times that he is hoping to return in 2020 for his 15th Major League season.
Kemp was released by the Reds in early May while suffering from a broken rib, and though he caught on with the Mets on a minor league deal, injuries limited Kemp to only eight Triple-A appearances before New York released him once more in July. “I still felt weird from when I broke my first rib. I was like, ‘I’m wasting your time right now. I need to go home and try to get healthy,’ ” Kemp said.
After taking some time to get back to full health, Kemp resumed baseball activities that included playing first base, working out with no less than Fred McGriff and Tino Martinez to learn the position. Kemp has played exclusively as an outfielder over his entire professional career, though it has been almost a full decade since defensive metrics have seen him as a positive contributor with the glove. Playing first base would be an additional point in Kemp’s favor for a team interested in seeing if he has anything left in the tank.
Kemp just turned 35 on September 23 and is already more than financially secure, as per the eight-year/$160MM extension he signed with the Dodgers that ran from 2012-19. But, as Kemp stated to Hernandez, he still feels he has another rebound left in the wake of his rough 2019 season.
“It ain’t about the money. I just love competing. I like to play baseball….It’d be different if I didn’t feel like I could go out here and contribute. I actually feel like I know I can still play,” Kemp said.
Kemp was part of three separate salary-dump trades in 2016, 2017, and 2018, yet while he was becoming known more for his salary than his contributions on the field, it’s worth noting that he has continued to be a decently productive hitter. While no longer the MVP-level hitter he was in his prime with the Dodgers, Kemp hit .274/.316/.472 over 2293 plate appearances from 2015-18 — including a .290/.338/.481 showing in 506 plate appearances just last year. Kemp has spent his entire career in the National League, though a move to an American League team that could offer DH at-bats could certainly unlock whatever pop still exists in his bat.