How Matt Kemp's Latest Injury Impacts Dodgers' Playoff Hopes, Trade Plans

Rick WeinerFeatured ColumnistJuly 8, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 30: Matt Kemp #27 of the Los Angeles Dodgers hits an RBI single in the fourth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Dodger Stadium on June 30, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. The Dodgers won 6-1.   (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Just like that, the logjam in the Los Angeles Dodgers outfield has disappeared.

Center fielder Matt Kemp, who underwent surgery last October to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder, is heading back to the disabled list with soreness in the surgically repaired joint:

Kemp, who has been in-and-out of the lineup since returning from his first stay on the disabled list towards the end of June, tried to see if he could avoid having to shut things down again, according to Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times:

Obviously, he failed that test.

While Dodgers manager Don Mattingly told reporters that neither he nor the team believes that this new injury is related to last year's surgery, that the team's 28-year-old center fielder is once again on the shelf has to be cause for concern.

Los Angeles has been on a roll of late, winning 12 of its last 15 games and moving into second place in the National League West. It's no coincidence that the team's resurgence began right around the time that Kemp returned from his first stay on the disabled list this season.

In the 10 games that Kemp has played in since returning to action, the Dodgers have gone 8-2 and the two-time All-Star performed well, hitting .273 with two home runs, seven RBI and an .818 OPS since June 25.

There's no question that the Dodgers are a better team with Kemp in the lineup than they are without him.

But the Dodgers are one of the few teams in baseball with the ability to replace Kemp in the lineup without having to look outside of the organization, and will now roll with an everyday outfield of Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and Yasiel Puig for the foreseeable future.

That outfield depth will allow Los Angeles to keep pace with Arizona in the division and keep its playoff hopes alive.

Speaking of Ethier, remember the trade winds that were swirling around him recently? Those should stop blowing right He's not going anywhere.

That said, with Scott Van Slyke serving as the team's fourth outfielder for the time being, it's fair to speculate that the Dodgers will be on the hunt for outfield reinforcements, especially considering Crawford's recent injury history.

There are multiple outfielders who are believed to be available leading up to the trade deadline, ranging from a former All-Star in Chicago's Alex Rios to fourth-outfielder types like Miami's Justin Ruggiano.

Granted, not all the players that the Dodgers might be able to acquire would be upgrades over any of the team's three current starting outfielders—or even over Van Slyke.

Yet unless the Dodgers decide that they are willing to part with some of their top prospects, the odds of someone along the lines of Ruggiano landing in Los Angeles are far greater than a more impactful bat like Rios.

At this point, the best course of action for Los Angeles is to do nothing, at least not until the team learns exactly what is going on inside Kemp's shoulder. Making a reactionary move before then could prove to do more harm than good, both in 2013 and beyond.