Matt Kemp is one
player that could see
far more green in his
paycheck next season
The 2011 Major League Baseball season isnâ€™t quite half over yet, but already there are players to keep an eye on next season.
Who has seen their stock rise, and will be making more $ next season? Hereâ€™s a list of five:
1) Matt Kemp-Dodgers CF
2010 Totals: .249 AVG, 28 HR, 89 RBI, 19 SB, .760 OPS
2011 Salary: $6.95 million
2011 Pace: .335 AVG, 47 HR, 131 RBI, 38 SB, 1.058 OPS
The Dodgers bought out Kemp's initial arbitration years by signing the outfielder to a 2-year, $11.5 million contract before the 2010 season. A disappointing 2010 saw Kemp's average drop from .297 to .249, and his stolen base total was nearly cut in half, falling from 34 to 19. Rumors that Kemp was not a part of the Dodgers' long-term plans arose, and his named popped up during off-season trade talks. Kemp has rebounded in 2011 with a torrid start, bashing 20 HRs while posting an OPS of 1.053. Kemp is arbitration-eligible for the 2012 season, and will be eligible for free agency in 2013 if he is not signed to an extension. With the Dodgers' current financial troubles, it is unclear whether the team will be able to afford the type of nine-figure contract that Kemp would command on the open market. If the team is unable to ink Kemp to a multi-year extension, the 26-year-old would undoubtedly be a highly-sought commodity on the trade market. A supremely-talented, young superstar like Kemp would likely draw the attention of deep-pocketed teams like the Cubs and Yankees.
2) Asdrubal Cabrera- Indians 2B
2010 Totals: .276 AVG, 3 HR, 29 RBI, 6 SB, .673 OPS
2011 Salary: $2 million
2011 Pace: .297 AVG, 29 HR, 106 RBI, 22 SB, .858 OPS
Cabrera has established himself as one of the premier middle infielders in the game this year, and is a big reason why the Indians currently find themselves leading the AL Central. The Indians signed the 25-year-old to a 1-year, $2 million deal in January, but he will be arbitration-eligible for the next two seasons, and is set to become a free agent after the 2013 season. If his numbers this year are indicative of what is to come, the Indians would be wise to lock up Cabrera long-term before the price tag on him continues to increase. Cabrera was slowed by injuries in 2010, but his strong 2009 season suggests that this year's production is no fluke.
3) Mike Morse- Nationals OF/1B
2010 Totals: .289 AVG, 15 HR, 41 RBI, 0 SB, .870 OPS
2011 Salary: $1 million
2011 Pace: .312 AVG , 29 HR, 95 RBI, 5 SB, .915 OPS
Morse has transformed from a toolsy fourth outfielder into a legitimate middle-of-the-order power bat over the course of the past two seasons. The Nats' slugger is arbitration-eligible for the 2012 and 2013 seasons, after which he will become a free agent. The onerous $126 million contract given to Jayson Werth may preclude the Nats from re-signing Morse, but his arbitration number in 2012 will surely be much higher than the $1 million he's earning this season. If the Nats decide that they won't be able to commit to Morse long-term, his combination of power, versatility, the lack of impact bats on the market, and the acquiring team's ability to control his rights through 2013 would likely attract a number of strong trade offers from interested teams. A team like the Braves, who boast a farm system replete with impressive pitching prospects an organization like Washington is short on, would be an ideal fit.
4) Alex Gordon- Royals LF
2010 Totals: .215 AVG, 8 HR, 20 RBI, 1 SB, .671 OPS
2011 Salary: $1.4 million
2011 Pace: .282 AVG, 17 HR, 88 RBI, 12 SB, .803 OPS
Gordon was dangerously close to earning the "bust" label after the former #2 overall pick in 2005 struggled so badly in 2010 that the team sent him to AAA in May of last year. In fact, had he not rebounded so well this year, there is a chance that Gordon would've been non-tendered after the 2011 season. It's a moot point now, though, as Gordon has finally begun to fulfill the promise the Royals saw when they drafted him. As a super-2 player in 2010, he still remains under team-control through the 2014 season. However, his resurgence this year may give Royals GM Dayton Moore reason to think about offering an extension to buy out those remaining arbitration years. At the very least, Gordon has assured himself of a multi-million dollar deal in arbitration before the 2012 season, if he is unable to work out a deal with the Royals before then.
5) Howie Kendrick- Angels 2B/1B/LF
2010 Totals: .279 AVG, 10 HR, 75 RBI, 14 SB, .721 OPS
2011 Salary: $3.3 million
2011 Pace: .307 AVG. 16 HR, 53 RBI, 12 SB, .857 OPS
Kendrick's decrease in RBI can be attributed to the fact that the rest of his teammates struggle to get on base, as the Angels rank 23rd in MLB in runs scored. Otherwise, it appears that Kendrick has finally arrived as one of the game's premier second basemen. His ability to play first base as well as left field makes him even more valuable to potential suitors. Kendrick will be a free agent after this season, and his services will not come cheap. He will benefit from the fact that Dan Uggla, who is four years older than Kendrick and inferior to him in every category besides homeruns, was given a 5-year, $62 million extension by the Braves in January. It's not unreasonable to think that Kendrick is worthy of a similar, if not more lucrative, deal.
Rob Smith is a contributing writer for the Business of Sports Network. He can be reached on Twitter @RobSmithUSF or on his personal blog, http://smithersports.blogspot.com/