So Long, Matt Kemp

I think we’ve all accepted the inevitability that Matt Kemp was going to be traded for a few days now, and today, as painful as it is to contemplate, that time is here. Kemp, extraneous backup catcher Tim Federowicz, and $32 million have been traded to San Diego for catcher Yasmani Grandal, pitcher Joe Wieland and minor league pitcher Zach Eflin. Eflin and pitching prospect Tom Windle (who was probably going to be in the 15-20 range on Dustin’s upcoming Dodgers prospect rankings) were then sent to Philadelphia to complete the deal for shortstop Jimmy Rollins. (Zach Lee, somehow, survives.)

None of that has been confirmed by the teams, of course, but by all indications & reports, that’s the deal, and Kemp himself just posted a heartfelt good bye to Dodger fans. A question I’ve been hearing quite a bit from fans is “what possible benefit could the Dodgers get from trading Kemp,” and there’s several reasons. You don’t have to like or agree with them, but accept that they exist.

Here’s what the Dodgers gain with this trade, assuming it goes down as we’ve been told:

  • A big catching upgrade both in offense and pitch framing in Grandal (with a high likelihood of a breakout, and four years left of control) to team with A.J. Ellis
  • A big shortstop upgrade in Rollins (through Eflin)
  • One interesting pitching prospect in Wieland, 25
  • Room cleared for home-grown prospect Joc Pederson in the outfield
  • Offloading of considerable risk (in terms of injury potential, ~$75 million, and potential decline as Kemp ages) to San Diego
  • Massively improved outfield defense, because Kemp isn’t good there
  • All of which accomplished by trading from a strength, an overstuffed outfield

Maybe that’s not enough for you, and that’s fine. Maybe you’re thinking more with your heart than your head, and that’s also fine. Kemp has been responsible for a lot of great moments over the last eight years. I’m going to miss him too. I’m mostly sad that the Kemp who tore apart the league in 2011 and the first month of 2012 was forcibly taken away by endless, repeated injuries, even as he worked hard to overcome them. The thought of what might have been there…

It’s possible that Kemp’s great finish to 2014 showed that he’s “back,” at least on offense. It’s also possible that on April 14, 2015 he pulls his hamstring for the umpteeth time or whacks his shoulder again and we’re all thrilled that we dodged a bullet. Before his rebound in 2014, you couldn’t have given his contract away for free. Now, a team has agreed to take on 70% of it and give back three useful players for the pleasure. We all want our team to “sell high and buy low,” and this is not only the highest Kemp’s value has been in three years, it’s very possibly the highest it will ever be. Remember, it’s not just about what he does in 2015. It’s what he does in 2016, ’17, ’18, and ’19 as well, and within two years, he’d have attained 10/5 rights, allowing him to block any move.

The point is, I’m not going to try to talk you out of being disappointed that Kemp is gone, because he’s someone we’ve grown very attached to. What I am going to do is talk you out of the idea that this move was insane, not rooted in baseball sense, or merely a salary dump. This isn’t the Mike Piazza deal, initiated by a television executive. This isn’t the Pedro Martinez deal, a once-in-a-lifetime outcome of a small righty pitching prospect working out beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.

This is a deal done by smart people for smart reasons, and by people who don’t have the same emotional attachment to Kemp that we do. Back in October, I predicted Andrew Friedman would do something that infuriates you, because he’s coming at this with a calculated perspective and without the encumbrance of being the man who handed out some of these contracts. This is that. (And it also doesn’t mean that Andre Ethier won’t get traded, too. And we don’t know that Kemp, after all his complaints through his agent last year, didn’t simply want to leave.)

I’m not carrying water for the team here. I’m not sure I like this deal. I’m not convinced that I wouldn’t be happier if this deal didn’t happen. Maybe I would be. But don’t pretend that this is a total loss, because that’s just false. There are some very clear benefits that come out of this, if you choose to accept them.

Still hurts, though. Still hurts.

About Mike Petriello

Mike Petriello
Mike writes about lots of baseball in lots of places, and right now that place is MLB.com.