Detroit outfielder Steve Kemp was awarded a $600,000 salary today for the 1981 season, the second highest award by an arbitrator under baseball's contract settlement procedures.

The highest award was $700,000, won by relief pitcher Bruce Sutter when he was with the Chicago Cubs last year.

The award, made by Monroe Berkowitz, Rutgers economics professor, marked the second straight year Kemp won an arbitration decision from Detroit. He won a salary of $210,000 last year.

The settlement makes Kemp the highest paid athlete in Detroit sports history. Bob McAdoo, earning $525,000 a year with the Pistons, is second.

The arbitrator must choose between figures submitted by the player or the club under the terms of their most recent agreement.

The Tigers suggested their fifth-year left fielder should earn $360,000 this season but Berkowitz decided Kemp's figure better reflected his worth to the team.

"The arbitrator has made his decision, and now we go to work," said Jim Campbell, general manager of the Tigers. "It's all over, and now it's spring training. I won't have anything further to say about it."

Kemp's salary will push the Tigers' 25-man player payroll to about $3.6 million this year. That represents an increase of about 50 percent from a year ago. The Tigers' average salary this year will be about $140,000, slightly below the American League mean of $175,000. Kemp, the No. 1 choice in the January 1976 free agent draft, hit 293 last season with 21 home runs and 101 runs batted in. He also led Detroit in game-winning hits for the second year in a row with 10, four less than he hit in 1979.

The Kemp decision was the last in baseball's arbitration cases this month. Ninety-eight cases were filed, but only 21 actually went to a hearing. Players won 11 of those 21 cases.

Kemp's was the biggest. Next was a $495,000 paycheck won by Chicago White Sox reliever Ed Farmer.