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MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Kemp presents Colletti with tough decision

Veteran outfielder has chance to return to form, but also has injury history

Kemp presents Colletti with tough decision play video for Kemp presents Colletti with tough decision

No team faces a tougher decision on a player than the Dodgers do on Matt Kemp. There's potentially a huge downside to trading him. There may also be an even greater downside. Nice, huh?

Ball is in your court, Ned Colletti. How do you solve a problem with no right answer? Doesn't pay to get up some days, does it, buddy? No matter what you do, the second-guessing may be merciless.

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Being service-oriented and all, I'd like to offer the Dodgers' general manager some helpful assistance. If an old friend can't help, who can?

First, let's make a case for trading Kemp.

Actually, this one is pretty easy. Kemp missed 145 games in 2012-13, mostly because of ankle and shoulder injuries. Those injuries have taken a toll.

Kemp is no longer the Gold Glove defender he once was. In fact, the Dodgers aren't comfortable putting him in center field, which happens to be the position he strongly prefers.

Wait, it gets worse. Kemp hasn't homered in a month. He has been productive at times, hitting .317 with a .900 OPS in June.

Included in that sample was some of the best of Kemp: eight doubles, two triples, three home runs and 10 walks. The Dodgers were 18-10 with him in the starting lineup.

That very solid month was wrapped around two average ones. Kemp hit .266 in May, .286 in July and homered once in 164 at-bats.

There's also Kemp's attitude. His agent, Dave Stewart, has said his guy wants to play center field and said that after nine seasons in Dodger Blue, it might be time to move on.

The Dodgers have been tempted to grant his wish. But Kemp has five years and $107 million remaining on his contract after this season.

Plenty of teams won't take on that kind of money. If Kemp was healthy and playing the way he did his first six seasons, he'd probably be easy to trade regardless of the cash involved.

Kemp would be a perfect fit for the Red Sox. The Mariners might make a run at him, too. But if Kemp was playing the way he did when he finished second in the 2011 National League Most Valuable Player Award balloting, the Dodgers wouldn't even think of trading him.

To trade Kemp now means they'd have to eat a chunk of the $107 million. Then there's this: Would they be a better team without him?

Life would certainly be easier for manager Don Mattingly, who is attempting to keep four veteran outfielders -- Kemp, Yasiel Puig, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford -- happy.

This is an impossible task. Until now, there hadn't been that many instances when all four were healthy. Now they are.

Plus, the Dodgers' third-best prospect is 22-year-old outfielder Joc Pederson, who is hitting .318 at Triple-A. So he clearly is ready for a shot.

One Los Angeles columnist has suggested that Pederson might provide the same kind of boost Puig did last summer when he debuted in June and sparked a 42-8 run.

To sum up, the Dodgers have a long list of reasons to trade Kemp, even if they have to pick up some of the remaining money. There's just one teensy argument against it. It's the one holding up the entire deal and probably the one that will kill any trade involving Kemp.

Here it is: Kemp could morph back into a monster player, the kind that every organization is searching for, the kind that comes along maybe once every other generation.

Kemp is still just 29 years old, and there seems to be a reasonable chance that he could be back to 100 percent next season. Will he ever be that other Matt Kemp? Again, he's 29 years old and should have as many tomorrows as yesterdays.

Puig may be the most indispensable Dodgers position player, but if Kemp ends up having three or four spectacular years for, say, the Red Sox, Colletti will be kicking himself.

If you've watched Kemp play these past three months, you've seen glimpses of the old Matt Kemp. The Dodgers have to try and figure out if he will eventually be back to normal or if they'd get as much production out of Crawford, Ethier, Puig and Pederson (or veteran Scott Van Slyke).

This is one of those spectacularly interesting questions that plenty of baseball teams have to make. Basically, it comes down to the Dodgers deciding if they have a reasonable chance of winning the World Series without Kemp.

If they believe they can do that and if they think that Pederson may be a special player, too, the answer seems obvious for the Dodgers.

But it won't be easy.

Scouts, coaches and executives spend half their careers hoping to find a player as good as Kemp. Showing that player the door is one of the harder things they'll ever do. Go get 'em, Ned.

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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