Today is a sad day. Today is an exciting day. Today is, well, crazy.
The Dodgers have traded Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig, Alex Wood, Kyle Farmer and $7 million to the Reds in exchange for right-hander Homer Bailey, infield prospect Jeter Downs and right-handed pitching prospect Josiah Gray.
Before we get to the Dodgers’ return here, let’s just take a moment to lament the fact that Yasiel Puig is no longer a Dodger. Even though it was basically telegraphed the entire offseason, I’m still bummed. I’m not as bummed on Kemp and Wood, as they seemed very likely to be on the move this winter. One thing’s for sure, Puig had a wild ride as a Dodger. He’ll never be forgotten by the fans and will now reunite with Turner Ward, who left after the season to take the hitting coach position with the Reds. I’m sure we’ll have more to write about Puig in the coming days.
This move saves the Dodgers some money. Bailey was due $28 million over the next two seasons (which included a 2020 buyout), but his competitive balance tax number was just $17.5 million. Kemp’s was $20 million and the combination of Puig and Wood are projected to make a little more than $20 million in their last year of arbitration. With the $7 million going Cincy’s way, it looks like the Dodgers will save $16-17 million against the luxury tax. While it can be easily argued that the Los Angeles Dodgers shouldn’t have to engage in salary dumps, this is the reality of the situation.
All of this had better be for them to sign Bryce Harper. You don’t trade Puig (and to a lesser extent, Kemp) without having your sights set on Harper to replace them. You don’t make these kinds of moves for an A.J. Pollock. They can sign Harper and use the newly acquired prospects in a deal to get J.T. Realmuto. Or use the prospects (or their own) to get Corey Kluber. The Dodgers can go a number of different directions here, but one of them had better be to sign Harper. If they do, they won’t be under the luxury tax — and that’s OK. You’re the Dodgers. Please act like it.
Bailey is going to be released as part of this trade, and the two prospects acquire are — for now — staying put.
Downs, 20, was No. 8 on Baseball America’s latest Top 10. He was the 32nd overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft. He’s a toolsy player who plays a bit bigger than his frame would suggest (5’11, 180 pounds). He took a step forward this year in the Midwest League. He hit .257/.351/.402 with 13 home runs and 37 stolen bases. He projects to have at least average tools across the board, with his arm and defense good enough to stick at shortstop. His bat should be his carrying tool. If he isn’t traded, he’ll begin the 2019 season in High-A Rancho Cucamonga. Here’s some video on him.
Gray, 21, was the 72nd overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft. He doesn’t have prototypical size (6’1, 190 pounds), but he has a plus-fastball that sits in the 91-96 MPH range. It could be on the higher end of that range if he moves to the bullpen. He has an average slider that should get him some whiffs. He’s lacking a true third pick (his changeup is below-average) and his command/control needs a bit of work. The changeup and control are reasons folks think he could end up in the bullpen. He pitched well in the Appalachian League in his pro debut: 2.58 ERA, 28.5 K%, 8.2 BB% and allowed just one home run in 52 1/3 innings. Here’s some video on him.
This trade makes some sense, but it’s hard to really like it because of Puig’s involvement. If you take emotion out, it looks like a solid trade that should set up the rest of the winter for the Dodgers. Let’s just hope they have their sights set high.