On Saturday, Jansen was overheard telling reporters that he was happy to have Kemp back on the squad, and that he was looking forward to seeing him compete for a spot on the club’s 25-man roster when pitchers and catchers report to spring training the middle of next month.
“To have Matt back is awesome,” Jansen said. “I look forward to seeing him in spring training. Whatever happens, happens. That’s a position the front office has to take. But he can help us tremendously. He’s in great shape.”
This isn’t the first time that Kenley has outwardly shown backing for one of his teammates, as the All-World closer reached out to fans last summer in an effort to draw support for third baseman Justin Turner‘s inclusion to the 2017 All-Star Game. And, as it turned out, it most certainly helped.
Furthermore, when it was GM Farhan Zaidi‘s turn to speak, he made it sound that Kemp had a realistic chance of competing for a spot heading into the regular season, despite a gloomy outlook from baseball boss Andrew Friedman not long after the trade went down initially.
According to Eric Stephen of True Blue LA, Zaidi said “there have been conversations about Matt Kemp, but with two weeks before spring training he expects Kemp to be a Dodger and compete for plate appearances and playing time in the outfield.”
A few weeks back, Ken Gurnick of MLB.com reported that Kemp has often been seen working out at Dodger Stadium with other players recently, most specifically Jansen, Cody Bellinger, and unsigned free-agent Chase Utley.
Seemingly, the more time that passes, the better Kemp’s chances improve of showing up to spring camp and battling for a roster spot. When the deal with the Braves was made about a week before Christmas, many believed that Kemp’s reunion with the Dodgers would be short-lived, as the maneuver was executed solely to get the club beneath the luxury tax threshold, and that Kemp would immediately be dealt to an opposing club.
However, whether it’s because there’s absolutely no other team willing to welcome in the 33-year-old veteran, or because the Dodgers are becoming more serious about having him compete for a roster spot, he’s still a member of the Dodgers’ 40-man roster—at least for now.
As the Braves’ primary left fielder last season, Kemp slashed .276/.318/.463 with 19 home runs and 64 RBI over 115 games. In 2016 for the Padres and Braves combined, he hit .268/.304/499 with 35 long balls and 108 RBI in 156 games. Kemp’s benchmark year came in 2010 for the Dodgers when he finished as the runner-up to NL MVP Ryan Braun, after he hit .324/.399/.586 with 39 homers, 40 stolen bases and 126 RBI.
Kemp was originally chosen by the Dodgers in the 6th round of the 2003 draft out of Midwest City High School in Oklahoma. He stayed in Los Angeles through the 2014 season, until he was traded to the Padres along with catcher Tim Federowicz for Yasmani Grandal, Zach Eflin and Joe Wieland. Before the non-waiver trade deadline in 2016, the Padres sent Kemp to the Braves in exchange for Hector Olivera.
For the Dodgers, pitchers and catchers are slated to report to Camelback Ranch on February 13, while all other players are scheduled to report the following day.