11/18/11 2:20 PM EST
Dodgers finalize Kemp's eight-year deal
Franchise-record contract keeps elite center fielder in LA
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
The deal is the biggest in club history, topping the seven-year, $105 million contract signed by pitcher Kevin Brown in 1998."I love this city, the fans and just to be a part of this as a Dodgers player ... eight more years, I definitely want to spend the rest of my career here," Kemp said. "Like Derek Jeter with the Yankees, I would like to spend the rest of my career here and be part of a dynasty and see this thing grow. I know we have the opportunity to have something special here."
Kemp, one of the favorites for the National League Most Valuable Player Award, which will be announced on Tuesday, is coming off a career year in which he hit .324 with 39 home runs and 126 RBIs and won the Rawlings NL Gold Glove Award and NL Silver Slugger Award while challenging for the Triple Crown in the last season of a two-year, $11.1 million deal."This is a great day for the Dodgers, a great day for Matt Kemp and a great day for the future," Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said.
Colletti previously said that locking up Kemp would be an offseason priority, and the center fielder has been the club's focus, even though fellow outfielder Andre Ethier, like Kemp, also has one season of arbitration eligibility remaining before he's able to be a free agent.
Facing Kemp at Friday's news conference, Dodgers owner Frank McCourt expressed pride in seeing Kemp's career develop firsthand.
"I've kind of watched you grow up -- we've had our conversations from time to time, and I just want to tell you I'm proud of you," McCourt said. "You've really, really seized an opportunity, and it's a wonderful thing. What goes with this is now to be that leader that you're capable of being. If you continue to grow as you have in the last few years, there's no doubt in my mind you're going to be the leader that this franchise has been looking for for quite some time."
Signing Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder would add a new, huge salary, with the Dodgers already budgeting Kemp for a big raise as part of an anticipated 2012 payroll similar to the $110 million the club spent this past season.
"I want other big-time free agents to consider L.A. as a team that they want to be a part of," Kemp said. "I want to win as many games as we can and get to the World Series. It is a great city and a great organization to be a part of."
Kemp, 27, led the NL in homers, RBIs, runs scored (115) and total bases (353) in 2011 and finished among the league leaders in multihit games (57, tied for first), hits (195, second), slugging percentage (.586, second), extra-base hits (76, second), stolen bases (40, tied for second), on-base percentage (.399, fourth) and walks (74, tied for eighth).
"I still want to win the MVP," Kemp said. "I put all that hard work in the training room and weight room for a 162-game season. The outcome is that you always want to be the best. Being thought of as one of the best makes you want to try harder the next year."
Kemp became the seventh player in Major League history to finish the season ranked in the top three in homers, batting average, RBIs and stolen bases in his respective league, joining Hall of Famers Ty Cobb (1907, '09-11), Honus Wagner ('08), George Sisler ('20), Chuck Klein ('32), Willie Mays ('55) and Hank Aaron ('63).
In addition, Kemp was the first Dodgers player to lead the NL in home runs and RBIs since Dolph Camilli in 1941 and the first player in Dodgers history to lead the NL in homers, RBIs and runs scored. He is one of five players all time to eclipse 30 homers, 35 stolen bases, 100 RBIs and a .310 average, joining Ken Williams ('22), Barry Bonds ('92), Alex Rodriguez ('98) and Vladimir Guerrero (2002).
"This past year was a great year for me personally and definitely set the bar, but I have to have even better numbers next year," said Kemp.
This year, Kemp was voted by his teammates as the winner of the Roy Campanella Award, which goes to the Dodgers player who best exemplifies the spirit and leadership of the late Hall of Famer; he's received the Hank Aaron Award, as the most outstanding offensive player in the NL; the Baseball America Player of the Year; the NL Stan Musial Award, presented by the Baseball Bloggers Alliance; been named a finalist for the Players Choice Outstanding Player in the NL; and named to The Sporting News NL All-Star team.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.