DODGERS, KEMP CLOSE IN ON 8-YEAR DEAL

The Los Angeles Dodgers appear close to signing MVP candidate Matt Kemp to an 8-year, $160M deal, Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times is reporting tonight. Kemp avoided arbitration in January of 2010 with a 2-year/$10.95M deal and has just the 2012 season between himself and free agency.

This huge deal, if it becomes reality, would be a major step in the stunning comeback that the Dodgers have staged since the All-Star break. The ownership troubles have been well-documented and the poor first half was understandable, given the distractions and injuries.

But July saw the beginning of better things for the Dodgers, who came from as far back as 15 games under .500 to finish at 83-79. Rookie manager Don Mattingly held the crew together as a shortstop (Dee Gordon) and a closer (Javy Guerra) emerged to set the stage for a promising future.

Oh, but that ownership situation. Could the Dodgers move forward, competitively, with the Frank and Jamie McCourt show going on? The system had developed key young players in Kemp and lefty ace Clayton Kershaw while OF Andre Ethier came over in a one-sided trade with the A’s. Could the club sign any of them long term?

Early this offseason, the clouds started to clear. The McCourt divorce settled, Frank McCourt came to terms with MLB to sell the team and now, not a moment too soon, the Kemp signing appears imminent.

Last year at this time, SoCal seemed in a never-ending downward spiral. The ownership was in disarray, the team didn’t compete, Joe Torre was gone and the Giants were World Champions. What a difference a year makes.

Bill Plaschke LA Times column

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