The hot rumor de nuit, from Ken Rosenthal:
I absolutely love trade scenarios that make me argue with myself for an hour. Because I see both sides. The Rangers need an outfielder, and they have an extra infielder. The Dodgers have an extra outfielder, but they need an infielder.
Kemp is a tremendous talent with question marks, owed a large sum of money.
Andrus is a tremendous talent with question marks, owed a large sum of money.
Oh, man, this is a Nora Ephron movie. We have to spend two hours or several months getting these people together when it's so obvious to the rest of the world what should happen.
Well, that's just the instant reaction. Let's take a closer look.
Owed: $123 million over nine years
You might think that's a lot of money. And … okay, it is. His career high in homers is six, and that was five years ago. He hasn't improved a lick in his rate stats since he was 20. He is an underwhelming offensive player. There aren't too many different ways to describe him as a hitter.
But he can play defense. And he can run the bases. Both of those things have value. A lot of value if the player in question plays shortstop. That was part of Jon Daniels's thinking, I'd guess. Andrus has a floor. And that floor is awesome. He had a lackluster offensive season, even compared to his previous seasons. He was still worth four wins according to Baseball-Reference.com and three according to FanGraphs. He just turned 25, the same age as Mike Moustakas and Will Middlebrooks. Both of those players are enigmas still. Andrus is a good shortstop with room to grow. That's worth $14 million a season, give or take.
Owed: $128 million over six years
That's the same money for three fewer years for a player who is four years older. There's no sugarcoating that. And the player in question has spent far more time on the DL.
It wasn't that long ago, though, that Kemp was one of the most valuable players in baseball. After he signed his big extension, Dave Cameron ranked him as the seventh-most valuable player in baseball. Things have changed since then, sure, but think about what kind of player would command that kind of respect after signing the huge extension. That's the kind of player Kemp was at the All-Star Break last year.
A garbage-disposal accident. Sloth bite. Dropsy. Those are all legitimate reasons to think Kemp might be finished at 29. Anything else, and I'm dubious. The more likely explanation is that Kemp had an injury-filled season-plus, but he's still mostly the player he was at the start of last year.
Mostly. I'd take the chance. For $128 million, even. Maybe.
Now, if I'm building a team from scratch -- a 30-team expansion draft -- and I have the choice between Andrus and Kemp, I choose Andrus. Every time. Call me crazy, call me late for dinner, but I'll take the upside of a light-hitting, stellar-defending, 25-year-old shortstop with a low, low floor over the upside of a potential MVP candidate with worrisome health, especially when there are three more years at the same price.
But if I'm the Rangers, and I'm getting offers from other teams, I consider this idea. There will be other interesting offers. But nothing that will be as seamless. Imagine the Cardinals offering Shelby Miller, for example. It wouldn't be Shelby Miller straight up. The Rangers would need to send cash. Now you have a $40 million Shelby Miller, or whatever. Maybe that's better than a $128 million Kemp, but the Rangers are still short an outfielder or two. Where are they going to find the upside that Kemp offers? By offering Shin-Soo Choo the same money and keeping Andrus?
Yeah, actually, that works out better for them. Similar risk, but they keep Andrus, whom they trade for pitching. Or a first baseman. Or anything they danged well please. If I'm grading this trade, I'm putting the onus on the Dodgers to offer more.
To which the Dodgers fans reply, "You are stupid." That's cool, that's cool. I can understand getting attached to Kemp and not wanting to trade him for a banjo-hitting glove-wiz. If I have to make a prediction, though, I'll wager that Andrus has the better career from 2014 through 2019. The Dodgers would disagree. And that's why a deal would never happen.
It would be pretty cool if it did happen, though. Just think about this trade idea two years ago. Baseball does have a way of messing with you.