Fired Up: Kemp Extended and Papelbon Jumps Ship

This week, Fired Up examines Matt Kemp’s extension with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Jonathan Papelbon’s record contract with the Philadelphia Phillies.

McCourt Leaves Lasting Impression with Kemp Extension

Frank McCourt made sure he left his best move as owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers as his last this week. He has come to an agreement, which is set to be announced today, with OF Matt Kemp on an eight-year/$160 million contract. Kemp is fresh off a MVP caliber season just as he is set to hit his prime. Below are Kemp’s stats for the previous three seasons and career marks.

2009 24 159 97 180 25 7 26 101 34 .297 .352 .490 .842
2010 25 162 82 150 25 6 28 89 19 .249 .310 .450 .760
2011 26 161 115 195 33 4 39 126 40 .324 .399 .586 .986
6 Seasons 787 464 840 140 28 128 457 144 .294 .350 .496 .846
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/17/2011.

The man certainly is deserving of a contract extension and the new owner of the Dodgers should be pleased Kemp will be around for several more years. He is the type of player a team would want to build around. In 2011 he put all his tools together and had one of the best all-around seasons in recent memory. Kemp checked in with a MLB leading 10.0 WAR according to Baseball-Reference.com. Kemp improved on his career marks in SO%, BB%, and HR/FB%. Some detractors will note Kemp’s BABIP of .380 in 2011 which they will view portrays extra luck. But, Kemp is one of a few players who consistently has high BABIP marks. His career BABIP is .352, so while higher in 2011, it will not greatly affect his overall performance numbers if he goes back to his average in years to come. Each of the improvements in the ratios mentioned earlier show he is maturing as a hitter. It is always good to see a player during his age 26 season (he actually turned 27 in late September) lowering a problematic strikeout rate and increasing his walk rate. He did this while exhibiting tremendous power. All of this combined with exceptional speed and Kemp is ready to put up some serious numbers over the next several seasons.

Kemp’s average annual salary of $20 million is going to seem cheap within a couple of years and when compared to the two top free agents on the market, Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder. Kemp’s contract compared to what Pujols and Fielder are commanding this offseason is definitely appealing. Fielder is closer in age (he turns 28 in May 2012) and is looking for a deal around 8 years/$200 million. Is he worth $5 million more per season than Kemp? Fielder does display more power as a rule and drives in a ton of runs, but he has also benefited from having Ryan Braun as a teammate. Kemp has Andre Ethier and he is no Ryan Braun. Pujols is looking for 10 years and $250 million. Age alone would sway teams toward Kemp or Fielder. Despite Pujols being the best hitter in the major leagues, entertaining ten-year contracts with a player who will turn 32 at the beginning of the 2012 season is risky. Let the St. Louis Cardinals keep him.

Kemp will be completing this contract at the age of 34. This is the point where he will be starting or have started his decline so it is a good length from the Dodgers’ perspective. Depending on how the contract value is to be paid the Dodgers may be able to trade Kemp if they desire in the future as the contract value will not be considered preposterous to other teams assuming he is performing well. The tea leaves point to Kemp being a long-term Dodger whom the fans in Los Angeles can rally around for the next eight seasons and probably beyond.

Papelbon Latest to Leave Beantown

Jonathan Papelbon jumped at the opportunity for someone to overpay him, inking a deal with the Philadelphia Phillies worth $50 million over 4 years with a vesting option for $10 million. This is the largest total contract ever given to a relief pitcher. He is the newest member of the ditch Boston family, following manager Terry Francona and general manager Theo Epstein out of Fenway. Papelbon’s stats are below.


2008 27 2.34 67 41 69.1 0.952 0.5 1.0 10.0 9.63
2009 28 1.85 66 38 68.0 1.147 0.7 3.2 10.1 3.17
2010 29 3.90 65 37 67.0 1.269 0.9 3.8 10.2 2.71
2011 30 2.94 63 31 64.1 0.933 0.4 1.4 12.2 8.70
7 Seasons 2.33 396 219 429.1 1.018 0.6 2.4 10.7 4.43
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/17/2011.

Papelbon has been a very successful albeit inconsistent closer over the last six seasons for the Boston Red Sox. He burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2006 with 35 saves and an amazing 0.95 ERA. This earned him second place honors in rookie of the year voting. Since then his ERA has fluctuated (all the way up to 3.91 in 2010) along with his walk rate while maintaining a very nice strikeout rate. He has recorded anywhere from 31 to 41 saves each season. Papelbon had his worst season in 2010 and whispers were that he may lose his role as closer to set-up man Daniel Bard. But Papelbon righted the ship in 2011. His walk rate went back down where it had been his first few seasons. His strikeout rate of 12.2 per nine innings was his second best mark of his career.

His WAR value has not come close to reaching the mark he set in 2006 (4.9) and the Phillies should hope that he is able to turn in a WAR higher than the 2.2 he has averaged after his rookie year. For $12.5 million annually he would have to turn in seasons which resemble 2006 and 2009. The Phillies of course have plenty of money to spend but they will be hard pressed to get back their investment on Papelbon. Salary not withstanding, the length of the contract seems like a detriment as well. Closers come and go. I wrote recently here how MLB teams do a poor job of managing the contracts of their relievers. The Phillies seemed eager to sign either Papelbon or former closer Ryan Madson regardless of the cost. A few days prior to Papelbon’s agreement, it was reported that Madson had a four-year/$44 million offer on the table. Again, the Phillies are among the wealthier teams and can endure these types of contracts if they go bad. It does not however mean they should offer and agree to them.

Now that the collective bargaining agreement seems ready to be wrapped up we should see more signings of the top stars like these in the coming weeks. The Kemp extension can be applauded as a win-win for he and the Dodgers. The dollar amount seems to have a hometown discount attached and the length is unobtrusive. Kemp has to be happy that the outgoing owner saw it appropriate to reward him for his contributions the last few seasons. The Phillies signed arguably the top closer on the market in Papelbon. However, a large question mark hovers over the contract’s return on investment and consequently the signing shifted an already inflated pay scale for closers higher.

Christopher Carelli writes for TheFanManifesto. He can be followed on twitter at @BaseballStance.

The entire FanMan team can be followed on twitter at @TheFanManifesto, or liked on facebook by clicking here.

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