Dodgers acquire Matt Kemp for Adrian Gonzalez & others in shocking trade

When Daniel sent an email to all of us at Dodgers Digest asking, “Anybody want … that trade?” Naturally, I assumed it was some minor deal involving players no one has ever heard of. Well, not quite.

I had to check five times to make sure this wasn’t a hoax. Yes, the Dodgers have reacquired Matt Kemp in a trade that sends Adrian Gonzalez, Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy, Charlie Culberson and the ever-popular cash considerations to Atlanta.

I’m at a loss for words. Seriously, I’m stunned. But let’s try to make some sense of this.

We’ve heard about the Dodgers wanting to get under the luxury tax for a while now, but we kind of assumed it would happen next off-season when all the contracts they just traded would be off the books. Instead, they’re going to reset the penalty this winter ahead of next year’s free agent class that includes Clayton Kershaw and Bryce Harper.

The Dodgers had paid the luxury tax five years in a row. That has resulted in $30-plus million in payments, which is essentially lost money. As we know, baseball is a business and no one likes throwing away $30 million if it can be avoided. This is how it gets avoided. The trade allows the Dodgers to get under the luxury tax by taking on fewer dollars this season, instead choosing to be saddled with Kemp’s 2019 salary after the reset.

Jeff Passan laid it out better than I could in my limited time to write this.

Only thing I would mention is that neither team will likely breach $237 million of payroll because not only is that when they’re taxed almost 100%, but it’s also when their 1st-round draft pick in the draft would be moved back 10 spots. Other than that, this is a great summary of the Dodgers’ thinking.

Oh yeah, not only are there luxury tax benefits, but this also frees up four valuable 40-man roster spots. The 40-man had been full until this moment, and the Dodgers were going to need to make room for Tom Koehler, with whom they reportedly agreed to terms yesterday.

——

No one could have predicted something like this was on the horizon. I wrote last winter about luxury tax implications and how it might impact the Dodgers’ roster construction, but never did I believe this trade was coming.

The Braves are going to designate Gonzalez for assignment, which is not surprising. He might just retire at this rate. Kazmir could be decent if he’s healthy, but he’s also a DFA candidate. McCarthy and Culberson should provide at least some value, if they make it through the winter on Atlanta’s 40-man roster.

Man, this is wild. Never did I think Kemp would be a Dodger again. But it might not be a long stay.

That’s kind of a bummer, but it’s understandable. While he can still hit a bit, Kemp is almost unplayable in the field, as his -17 defensive runs saved in just 851 2/3 defensive innings in left field last season were the worst in baseball. Maybe an AL team looking for a cheap designated hitter might take a chance on him, like, say, the Royals could come calling. And while it’d be nice for nostalgic purposes if he put on the Dodger uniform again, it ain’t happening.

——

Now, don’t expect the Dodgers to go out and spend all this newfound money. The goal was to save money without negatively impacting the team’s depth, and they certainly did that. So basically, this is all setting up for the Dodgers to not only retain Kershaw after this season (either via extension or free agency), but also end up with another premium free agent. Harper very well might be the Dodgers’ end game, and that would not suck.

We’ll see how it all plays out. The off-season had been pretty boring to this point (which is fine), but this definitely gave a big jolt to what could be an interesting next month or so.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler
Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosts a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He is a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif., and has yet to be shot.