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MVP candidate Matt Kemp likely to seek extension with Dodgers

Matt Kemp, Ryan Vogelsong, Chris Stewart

Los Angeles Dodgers’ Matt Kemp, right, watches his ball go out for a three-run home run off San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Ryan Vogelsong, lower left, during the fifth inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2011, in Los Angeles. At back left is catcher Chris Stewart. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)


While speculation has Andre Ethier potentially on the way out this winter, Matt Kemp is looking to stay in Los Angeles. Asked about a contract extension by ESPN Radio’s Beto Duran, Kemp replied that we “haven’t started talks... but I plan on being with the Dodgers the rest of my career.”

Kemp would be the obvious choice for NL MVP honors this year if he were playing for a better team, and he might win the award anyway, even with the Dodgers staggering to a .500 finish. He’s third in the league with a .322 average, tied for second with 35 homers, first with 116 RBI, second in steals with 40 and second with a .969 OPS. Ryan Braun is right there with him offensively, but Kemp is the more valuable defender and has played in 10 more games.

Kemp is currently in the final year of a $10.95 million contract that covered his first two arbitration seasons. He could ask for $15 million or so in arbitration this winter, and he’ll be eligible for free agency for the first time after next season. Just 27 (actually, he turns 27 tomorrow), he’d have every right to ask to become one of the game’s highest-paid players as part of an extension. Should he come close to matching his 2011 numbers next year, he’d definitely top Carl Crawford’s seven-year, $142 million contract as a free agent.

The Dodgers might just want to go ahead and offer him that kind of deal now. Kemp may not remain one of the game’s top 10 players going forward -- he hit just .249/.310/.450 last year and he’ll probably need to move to an outfield corner two or three years down the line -- but he’s been incredibly durable and this should be merely the first in a string of 30-homer seasons. Also, he loves L.A. and the team could use all of the good publicity he could get. If Either goes this winter, the Dodgers really need to make sure Kemp will be staying beyond 2012.