So, what does this mean for the Dodgers, who will attempt to sign their star center fielder to a contract extension this winter?
“This isn’t Matt saying this, this is me saying this,” Stewart said. “But, unfortunately, the way these things are seen is often based on how you’re paid.”
In other words, if the Dodgers intend to retain Kemp beyond the 2012 season when he can become a free agent, they shouldn’t count on a significant hometown discount.
Hometown discounts, in which players remain with their longtime teams or sign with their hometown clubs at less than their market value, are becoming increasingly rare in baseball and other professional sports.
“I think it’s walked step by step with the increase in salaries,” said Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti, who has spent more than three decades in baseball.
Whereas a hometown discount in the past often meant leaving tens of thousands of dollars on the table, doing so today could cost a player millions.
But it does happen.
By agreeing to a five-year, $85-million contract extension with the Angels in August, pitcher Jered Weaver passed on the opportunity to sign a nine-figure deal as a free agent after the 2012 season.
“There’s no better fit than to stay here,” Weaver said at the time.
Weaver grew up in Simi Valley, pitched at Long Beach State, was drafted by the Angels in 2004 and has spent his entire professional career in the organization.
Six-time Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu said he felt similarly toward the Pittsburgh Steelers. In a league filled with mercenaries who switch teams with great frequency, Polamalu has spent his entire nine-year career with the same franchise.
A season away from free agency, Polamalu signed a four-year extension with the Steelers last month. He is under contract through 2014.