BOSTON -- Dave Stewart, who was best known in Boston as being Roger Clemens' daddy when he pitched (9-1 lifetime against the Rocket, including two wins for Oakland in the 1990 American League Championship Series), says in his 10 years as a player agent, he has never gone to baseball's winter meetings.
But he plans to be in Orlando, Fla., next week. Why? Because Stewart represents Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, he has heard all the trade talk swirling around his celebrated client, some of that speculation involving the Boston Red Sox, and he has a "strong feeling something could happen" at the meetings.
"This is the first time we've experienced this," Stewart said. "This is the first time we've heard it this much, and the first time we really believe something could happen."
The Dodgers have a surplus of outfielders in newcomer Yasiel Puig, former Red Sox outfielder Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and Kemp, who led the National League in home runs with 39 in 2011, falling one homer short of being a 40-40 man (he had 40 stolen bases), and was second in the MVP voting to the later-discredited Ryan Braun. They also have an up-and-coming center fielder in 21-year-old Joc Pederson.
Kemp would undoubtedly be untouchable if he had stayed healthy and replicated that performance, but the past two seasons have been cut short by injuries, with Kemp having surgery on his left (non-throwing) shoulder after each of the last two seasons, and also undergoing surgery on his left ankle in October, 13 days after his second shoulder surgery.
Stewart said that Kemp just recently began weight-bearing exercises on the ankle, will start hitting in January, and expects to be ready for the start of spring training.
"There have been a lot of questions about his health, but he'll be ready to play," Stewart said. "He's worked hard to get in shape and get over these offseason surgeries."
Boston's incumbent center fielder, Jacoby Ellsbury, just came to terms with the New York Yankees on a seven-year, $153 million deal. The Sox say they would be comfortable with rookie Jackie Bradley Jr. taking over in center, and that may indeed be the case. The Sox could just wind up adding a journeyman outfielder, as insurance for Bradley in case he falters and as another backup for Shane Victorino, who was limited in 2013 by hamstring and back issues to 122 games, the fewest he's played since becoming an everyday player in 2006. Or they could aim higher.
Kemp has six years and $128 million left on his contract. Sources on both sides of the Ellsbury negotiations said the Sox had indicated a willingness to go to six years, but for less than $120 million. Kemp, at 29, is a year younger than Ellsbury, and if the Dodgers were willing to eat some of his salary -- how much would depend on what they got back in players in return -- the Sox would be in position to add a dynamic, right-handed-hitting All-Star.
One hypothetical trade scenario to consider: If the Dodgers were to chip in $32 million of the $128 million owed to Kemp, he would cost the Red Sox $16 million per season, seemingly well within range of what they were willing to pay Ellsbury.
Multiple sources have indicated that the Sox have at the minimum made inquiries of the Dodgers regarding Kemp. Stewart said he has taken the speculation regarding the Red Sox seriously enough to talk to Kemp about Boston, and what it would be like to play there.
"Boston is a good place," said Stewart, a message 180 degrees removed from what Kemp's teammate, Crawford, said repeatedly after being traded by the Sox in 2012. "It's a good city to play in, especially when they're winning championships.
"I'm 56 years old, and people are still buying me dinner there, and I played for the other team. I told Matt about the city. The key to playing in the city is to perform. Compete, play good-quality baseball, don't dog it. If you don't perform, nobody's going to like it."
Stewart said he believes Kemp would have no reservations about playing for the Red Sox. "And the opportunity to play with Big Papi, he'd love to play with him, learn from him."
That decision is not in Kemp's hands, of course.
"Our destiny is controlled by the Dodgers," Stewart said. "You never know what's going to happen. But one thing we know about Boston is they're going to do whatever it needs to do to maintain the excellence it has had for years. We'll see what happens."