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Dodgers' Matt Kemp already looking toward next season

The outfielder isn't sure how the looming ownership change will affect his contract negotiations but says he wants to remain in L.A.

November 03, 2011|By Dylan Hernandez
  • Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp says he wants to stay in Los Angeles, but the impending ownership change has placed an element of uncertainty into his contract negotiations.
Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp says he wants to stay in Los Angeles, but… (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles…)

Matt Kemp is uncertain about his future with the Dodgers, but right now that doesn't make him different from any of the team's other employees.

"I don't know the situation," he said on a conference call Thursday. "We don't know who's going to get the team."

Kemp will be eligible for free agency at the end of next season. With that in mind, General Manager Ned Colletti went into the off-season saying that signing Kemp to a multiple-year contract ranked among the Dodgers' priorities.

But the sale of the team is expected to take months, and Kemp has been advised by his agent, Dave Stewart, to end negotiations at the start of the season if a deal hasn't been reached.

Asked whether he would extend his negotiating window for a new ownership group, Kemp sounded unsure.

"Of course I would listen to them," he said. "But like Stew said, during the season it's focus on baseball. With contract negotiations, it can get kind of tough and overwhelming for that person and the team. I don't want to mess up the chemistry of the team."

Kemp, who won the Silver Slugger and Gold Glove awards in the same season for the second time, reiterated his wish to remain with the Dodgers.

"Hopefully, we can work something out," he said.

Kemp said he also hoped a change in ownership wouldn't change the status of Manager Don Mattingly and his coaching staff.

"Donnie did a great job," Kemp said. "The coaching staff was amazing this year. I don't think there will be any changes on our team. I hope not. We worked well together."

Although he acknowledged he had no idea what kind of money the Dodgers could offer, Kemp continued to campaign for the addition of free-agent first baseman Prince Fielder.

"I would love to have him here in L.A.," Kemp said.

He also spoke about departing owner Frank McCourt: "I have respect for him. I wish him the best."

Kemp said he has started his off-season workouts.

Asked whether he felt pressure to play up to the standards he set for himself in his breakout season this year, Kemp said, "It's not a pressure situation. When I'm relaxing, having fun, not worrying about anything, not stressing, my talents are going to show."

Kemp said he is convinced he can have an even better season next year.

Recalling how first base coach Davey Lopes told him he was thrown out too many times on the base paths, Kemp said he wanted to become a better base-stealer. He said he could also work on his plate discipline — he struck out 159 times.

"Cut down on strikeouts, get more walks, be more patient in key situations," he said.

Kemp said he is eagerly anticipating the announcement of the National League most-valuable-player award, for which he is a leading contender. The winner will be named Nov. 22.

"I never knew until I was in the MVP discussion that it took so long," he said, laughing. "It feels like a long time."

Players' choice

Kemp was voted the NL's outstanding player by his peers, the Major League Baseball Players' Assn. announced Thursday. Clayton Kershaw was the NL's outstanding pitcher and Angels first baseman Mark Trumbo was the American League's outstanding rookie.

Rivera re-signs

Juan Rivera underwent a physical to finalize a one-year, guaranteed deal for $4.5 million. Rivera will be paid $4 million next season. The contract includes a $4-million option for 2013 that can be bought out for $500,000.

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

twitter.com/dylanohernandez

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