Despite reports from Nick Cafardo that the Red Sox have been heavily scouting Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, a major league source tells WEEI's Rob Bradford that the Red Sox are not currently pursuing the two-time All-Star:
Source: ‘Nothing going on’ regarding Red Sox, Matt Kemp http://t.co/XIDXlZEeIt— WEEI (@WEEI) June 23, 2014
The Red Sox were linked to Kemp back during the offseason, with the Dodgers seemingly "suffering" from a glut of outfielders and the Red Sox having just lost their star center fielder in Jacoby Ellsbury. Nothing materialized, however, and since then Boston's outfield has proven one of the worst in the game, particularly at the plate.
Still, if Boston's need has proven even greater than expected, there are now reasons to question their willingness to trade at all, and their interest in Kemp who, while still better than his oft-injured 2013 self at the plate, has actually been a net negative to his team by both fWAR and rWAR thanks to his absolute butchery in the outfield.
It's true that Kemp can still hit some. After producing a line of just .270/.328/.395 for the Dodgers in 2013, Kemp is hitting .274/.333/.460 this year. That's a decent bump in power even if it's still well off the heights that made him so valuable back in 2011. In fact, given where he's playing, that line is good for a 124 wRC+, which is far better than anything Boston's outfielders are doing.
But for everything Kemp can do with the bat, he makes other team's hitters look that much better given that he apparently can't track anything down in the outfield anymore. His old speed having left him, UZR and DRS agree: Kemp is just awful out there. Both measurements have him well into double digit negative runs in the outfield this season, and while it may be possible to mitigate that somewhat by sticking Kemp in front of the Monster, the Red Sox can't be interested in shelling out $20 million a year to have that bad of a glove without an absolute monster bat attached to it.
Of course, it's also very much in question whether the Red Sox should be buying at all, given their 35-41 record on the season. There is something to be said for making trades aimed at future seasons in advance of the 40-man roster crunch that seems to be on the way this offseason, and Matt Kemp would certainly be around for a while. But the last thing the Red Sox should want to do right now is to tie down their future payroll on a huge risk like Kemp. He's probably not quite as bad as half-season defensive numbers make him out to be, but it's hardly clear that he's actually worth much of anything right now as anything other than a designated hitter, and spending $20 million on a designated hitter whose offensive value is really predicated on park factors proving out seems like a terrible idea.
Frankly, spending $10 million and prospects on that player seems pretty awful too, even if there's some small chance that Kemp returns to his 2011 or even 2012 self. Maybe the Punto trade has a clause saying the Red Sox have to return the favor and bail the Dodgers out at a future date? If not, they certainly should not go out of their way to do so.