Dodgers Must Try to Find Taker in Matt Kemp Trade


Matt Kemp’s homecoming sure does not feel like one. Reacquired last December in the now infamous salary reallocation trade with Atlanta, Kemp returned to the Dodgers with no fanfare, no press conference, and no Fan Fest appearance! Dodger fans and the media, both local  and national, have both reached a consensus that Kemp will not suit up for the Dodgers come opening day.

What if Kemp is still a member of the  Dodgers on opening day, however?  What value could he provide to the Dodgers?  Does his trade value outweigh his value to the Dodgers on the field?

Matt Kemp arrived in L.A. in 2006 as a young, athletic center fielder with 40/40 potential.  In 2011, arguably his best season as a Dodger, Kemp bashed 39 home runs, stole 40 bases, hit .324, led the league in OPS+, won his second of two Gold Gloves, and should have won NL MVP.  That season was one of the better offensive seasons in Dodger history.

A serious shoulder injury in 2012, and ankle injury in 2013, permanently hampered Kemp’s mobility.  Defensively, Kemp is a shadow of his former self.  Last season Kemp was ranked as one of the worst defensive outfielders in the league when viewed through the lens of advanced metrics.  Could Kemp’s offensive profile offset his bad defense?

Kemp is entering his age 33 season. His age coupled with his injury history only suggest continued regression. Last year for the Braves Kemp hit .276 with 19 homers and 115 games played.  Kemp’s OPS+ was 103.  He is clearly in decline and has trouble staying healthy and on the field.

To his credit, Kemp come back from both of those injuries sustained with the Dodgers and played in 154 games in 2015, and 156 games in 2016. I think it is reasonable to expect about 130 games out of Kemp with LA should he stick around and become part of Dave Roberts’ outfield rotation.

Considering what he did last year, and the protection he would have in the Dodgers talented lineup, Kemp could hit 22-25 homers, and probably hover between .270-.280.  Will that be enough to offset his horrendous defense? Possibly, however, I think a DH role for Matt Kemp will maximize his hitting ability at this stage of his career. He could play about 155 games as a DH and hit 35 home runs again.

The Dodgers would derive more value from Kemp as a trade chip then they would by having him hold down LF. Freeing up the majority of his salary, owed to him over the next 2 seasons, would give the Dodgers the payroll flexibility to add some more pieces between now and the July Trade Deadline.

To accomplish this, the Dodgers will have to throw in two or three mid-tier prospects in any trade. Think Omar Estevez, Caleb Ferguson, and Edwin Rios (I used these prospects as examples because they all play positions where the Dodgers have good depth and are therefore expendable).

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Q: What AL teams would be a good fit for Kemp?

CHICAGO WHITE SOX:  The ChiSox have a need for a RH power bat to fill the DH spot.  A veteran addition like Kemp would add some experience to the ChiSox roster.  However, The White Sox are in a rebuild mode for at least one more season, and may not see the need to take on Kemp’s salary despite the prospect haul. Chances:  Slim.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS:  The Royals may yet re-sign Eric Hosmer.  However, whether they do or don’t, they still will have a hole in the lineup at DH.  If they don’t re-sign Hosmer, Kemp would help offset some of the offensive production lost with Hosmer’s departure. Chances:  Fair, depending on Hosmer’s status.

MINNESOTA TWINS:  The Twins are in need of a DH, RH power bat, and veteran player to hit in the middle of their lineup.  They also are in a window of contention, and in my opinion, are the best fit for a Kemp trade.  Kemp would definitely improve the Twins lineup, and increase the team’s odds of making the postseason. Chances:  Perfect fit–let’s make a deal!

Next: Pedro Baez Should be the Backup Closer

It remains to be seen whether Kemp will be a Dodger on opening day.  I believe Kemp is more valuable as a trade chip.  As I mentioned in an earlier article, I wouldn’t recommend dusting off the old #27 jersey in your attic just yet.