Saturday, December 13, 2014

The good and bad of trading Kemp

By now, we've all had some time to recover from the absolutely insane couple of days at the Winter Meetings for the Dodgers.  I don't think we've seen anything like it before, and probably won't see anything like it again.

Through all of the comings and goings, perhaps none hit closer to home for Dodger fans than moving Matt Kemp to the Padres for catcher Yasmani Grandal.  It's a move that wasn't exactly surprising considering the trade rumors involving Kemp for years, but still may have been hard to accept that it actually happened.

Technically the trade isn't official yet, as medical exams still need to be completed.  But let's just go ahead and call it a done deal for the sake of this post.

Now, let's take a look at the positives and negatives of trading away a guy who at one point was the clear franchise player:

* Andrew Friedman clearly did not see him as being a franchise player anymore, so it was the perfect time to sell high (ala Dee Gordon).  There are countless amount of teams out there that are willing to ignore his weak first half (.269, 8 homers, 35 RBIs), and want a whole lot of his second half (.309, 17, 54).  Considering how much noise is being made about a lack of right-handed power hitters, now was the time to make a deal.

* Don Mattingly can now go to the ballpark each day only worrying about managing a baseball game, and not managing egos on top of that.  Make no mistake about it - Kemp had a massive ego at times.  That's not necessarily a bad thing, as he wanted to be the everyday center fielder for the Dodgers.  But reality is that injuries have cost him much of his athleticism, and it wasn't coming back.  Without him around anymore, that's one less headache to worry about.

* As I said above, Kemp had a great second half of 2014, and was probably the best hitter in the lineup.  But before that, he hadn't done much since the very beginning of 2012, and then it was a laundry list of injuries.  It's not like he was trying to get hurt, but he's on the wrong side of 30 now, and one would think that without the luxury of days spent in the DH spot, the risk of injury again is right around the corner.

* Those two Gold Gloves he won in 2009 and 2011?  Let's just say that it won't be happening again.  That guy is a thing of the past.

* Friedman and his friends clearly are looking for guys who can get on base.  Kemp averages nearly a strikeout per game over his career, and that's probably not going to change.

* Dodger fans have long waited to see the Kemp circa 2011 (when he was robbed of the MVP by Ryan Fraud), and they saw lots of glimpses of that guy at the end of '14.  That seemed like a great reason to keep a guy around, not trade him away to a division opponent.

* After playing in 106 games in 2012 and 73 in 2013, Kemp was on the field in 150 games this past season.  It seemed like that would never happen again, but he finally found a way to stay on the field and not in the trainer's room.

* How many people realize he was third in the Majors in home runs in the second half of '14, and second in RBIs?  No, that's not just that National League, it's in all of baseball.  That's very impressive.

* While Clayton Kershaw has taken over the "franchise player" label, there was still a soft spot for Kemp, as he was as dynamic as they came in that magical 2011 season.  Fans will never forget .324 with 39 homers, 126 RBIs, and 40 stolen bases.  There may have been boos scattered in the few years since then, but the second he showed he was right, he was instantly a fan favorite all over again.

* Even if fans accepted Kemp being traded, did they really envision the return being a catcher from the Padres who was suspended 50 games for PEDs and has torn his ACL and MCL?  I'm guessing that's a no.

Add it all up, and there's no definitive answer to whether or not this was a smart trade.  Only time will tell on that.  Maybe Kemp goes to San Diego, is miserable on a bad team, gets the injury bug again, and kind of fades away.

Or, maybe he goes to San Diego, becomes the team leader that franchise has been looking for, and resurrects his All-Star career.

At the end of the day, whether he plays well with the Padres or not, I know that I will miss him, as it's going to be very, very weird seeing him in that ugly jersey.  I won't miss the drama that was associated with him at times, as it seemed that too often he was the last to realize how lousy he was performing on the field.  But I will miss the stud who showed up down the stretch for the Dodgers last season, and the guy who hit the game-winning home run in their only playoff win.

We won't have to waste much time in seeing Kemp again, as the Dodgers host the Padres on Opening Day April 6, 2015.  Just thinking about the first inning of Kershaw vs. Kemp gets me excited for the return of baseball already!

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