Dodgers and Brewers Make Great Trade Partners Now
By Josh Burke
A trade of Matt Kemp for Ryan Braun must be at least mulled over. In terms of the effect such a trade would have on the Dodgers payroll situation, please allow me to elaborate.
We talked a while back about moving some expensive and expendable pieces so as to wiggle enough space under the Competitive Balance Tax threshold for a big splash free agent signing. Now the Brewers are the ones making a statement this offseason. There was buzz recently that good old Milwaukee was in frothy pursuit of Dodgers free agent Yu Darvish. Then news comes out Thursday that the Brewers invested in some offensive help by trading for outfielder Christian Yelich and reportedly signing another outfielder, free agent Lorenzo Cain.
I wondered if the Brewers could be cashed out. Maybe that was the extent of their winter spree…or possibly it was just the beginning of more moves to come. Could the Brewers sudden surplus of outfielders lead to renewed desire for LA to nab long coveted leftfielder Ryan Braun?
With an outfield overhaul underway in Laverne & Shirley land, I started to see the light through rose colored glasses and/or beer goggles. What if Milwaukee’s best effort to dethrone the Dodgers as defending National League Champions was actually a blessing in disguise? Hold on just a minute, you say. You have two words for me, you say: “Matt. Kemp.” He and Braun both play the same position, they both are viewed as having already had their best years go by, and they both have almost identical impact on the luxury tax.
Kemp signed a contract for 8 years totaling $160 million in late 2011. That equates to $20 million annually against the luxury tax. Braun was signed to a 5 year, $105 million deal, which is just $1 million more per year against the tax threshold.
Kemp has two years and $43 million to go on his deal. Braun has three years with a fourth year mutual option and $55 guaranteed including a $4 buyout in 2021. In addition, the deal could be worth as much as $66 million if Braun’s mutual option is picked up by both him and the team.
By the Brewers taking on Kemp’s deal, they’d get out from under their commitment one year earlier than they would have with Braun and therefore have a roster space and salary available to them a year sooner. The situation is comparable to Atlanta trading Kemp to LA for Adrian Gonzalez.
Even though the Brew Crew have improved their outfield and batting order with recent moves, Milwaukee still has glaring needs that could be filled in a swap with Los Angeles. To cover the cost of Braun’s extra years and salary, the Dodgers may be enticed to include expiring contracts.
If the Brewers want an experienced left-handed starting pitcher, the Dodgers can offer Hyun-Jin Ryu. Moving Ryu would save the Dodgers $7 million to get further under the tax line.
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Should Milwaukee desire a straight-up salary dump, Los Angeles would be delighted to introduce them to Erisbel Arruebarruena. His exodus would liberate around $5 million from the Dodgers’ payroll.
As we get closer to pitchers and catchers reporting, I get more and more confident that Yasmani Grandal is the catcher de jour. However, if the Brewers want one of the National League’s best offensive and defensive catchers for at least the past three years running, they could try and pry Yasmani Grandal loose. Shedding Grandal’s $7.9 salary would free up more of the Dodgers budget for a dominant starter like Darvish.
The Brewers also have a hole at second base after seeing Jonathan Villar struggle mightily at the plate last year to the tune of a miserable .241/.293/.372 slash line. If Los Angeles felt so inclined, they could ship Logan Forsythe and his $9 million salary to Milwaukee and shave even more payroll this season.
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I keep on anticipating a payroll reducing maneuver by the Dodgers occurring, but it still hasn’t happened yet. I accept that the team, as it is, might be the same team that starts the season, but that is just so very un-LA. It would be neat if the Dodgers went and blew all of our minds with an unexpected Kemp for Braun trade with Milwaukee. Of course, the Dodgers would also want one or more cheaper replacement-level players back in return. I would like to see Keon Broxton in LA, for example.