Center fielder Matt Kemp(notes) and the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday morning were closing in on the richest contract in franchise history, an extension believed to be worth about $160 million over eight years, sources confirmed.
Against the ugliness of the divorce of owners Frank and Jamie McCourt, the backdrop of the team’s bankruptcy and now the sale of the club, Kemp has consistently expressed a desire to remain in Los Angeles. New ownership is expected to be in place by April.
Kemp is weeks removed from a breakout year in which he led the National League in home runs and RBIs, was third in batting, and came within a single home run of a 40-40 season.
A year from free agency, Kemp appeared to drive talks to ensure he would be a Dodger through his prime. His agent, Dave Stewart, said during the World Series that he had his “marching orders” from Kemp, and that was to work out a contract with the Dodgers.
Assuming an agreement is reached, it would conclude an incredible year for Kemp, whose distracted 2010 season led to speculation he could be traded. In February, he arrived in spring training fitter, said he was prepared to work harder, and promised he would be a better player.
While the organization sagged under the trials of McCourt, and Dodger Stadium emptied, and the season was lost after the first couple months, Kemp stayed true to his word. He was an All-Star, won a Gold Glove award and became an MVP candidate. On many nights, he was the only good reason to go to the ballpark.
He batted .324, hit 39 home runs, drove in 126 runs and stole 40 bases. Dodger fans, the few who were left, would chant “MVP!” when he came to bat.
If indeed the final numbers are eight years and $160 million, only six contracts have been more lucrative – the two signed by Alex Rodriguez(notes) ($275 million in 2008, and $252 million in 2001), Derek Jeter’s(notes) in 2001 ($189 million), Joe Mauer’s(notes) in 2011 ($184 million), Mark Teixeira’s(notes) in 2009 ($180 million) and CC Sabathia’s(notes) in 2009 ($161 million).
The Dodgers’ richest contract had been Kevin Brown’s, who signed for $105 million in 1999.
Fox Sports was the first to report that the Dodgers and Kemp were nearing a deal.
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