The trade was made and the baseball world stood there watching, speechless. Matt Kemp, who had once been the star for a vintage Los Angeles Dodgers roster, was reunited with the team he once called his own.
It was a three-year hiatus for Kemp. The Dodgers traded him away in the 2014 offseason citing his bad attitude and declining production as the culprits in the decision to ship him away. Kemp found himself as a part of the major roster overhaul by Andrew Friedman.
He was traded to San Diego. Kemp played one and a half seasons for the Padres where in his first year he played well despite being 30 years old. His bat was lively and his defense serviceable, there was nothing to worry about for the left fielder star.
Season two with the Padres was cut in half by a midseason trade to the Braves. That year, 2016, Kemp looked like he once did back in his prime. He hit a season total of 35 home runs, the second most in his career. He logged 108 RBI’s and it looked for a moment like having Matt Kemp on the roster would be a blessing, not a curse.
2017 was a tale of two players for the now 32-year old Matt Kemp. His offense hovered around average as he owned a 106 OPS+ and had a slugging percentage of .463. This average bat was the good side of Kemp, whereas the rest of his game was bad.
Defensively, Matt Kemp, whose weight, health, and speed had all become issues, was a liability on the field. He was either missing plays or getting hurt thus leading to a Runs Above Average rating of -14. Combine statistics with his locker room problems and Kemp was a less than desirable roster addition.
But, despite his woes on an off the field the Braves were presented with an opportunity, a trade. And, rather than take the time to tell you what you already know, Kemp was a Dodger yet again when things were all said and done.
The trade was done but at the time it came with a clause. Kemp was added as a piece of the puzzle of salary dumping and he was to be used as nothing more than that. His purpose had been served and for Andrew Friedman, the desire was to trade or release Kemp as fast as he got him.
After weeks of waiting, no trade opportunities arose and Kemp spent that time slimming down. He was still on the roster but now 40 pounds lighter and for the fans and much of the public, it had looked like Kemp had turned back the clock.
Spring training began and Kemp was off to a scorching start. He was hitting home runs and getting base hits in what seemed like every time he came to the plate. He was doing his job on
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defense and again, things were looking up for the player who was not supposed to be there.
But, home runs against minor leaguers in the spring are as meaningless as the road behind you in a car. The spring is a fluke and the results are irrelevant. Hitting minor leaguers and taking them deep is great but it doesn’t have bearing on the regular season or how “good” a player is. The test would not be the spring, it would be the regular season.
Things began for Kemp at Dodger stadium and against the rival San Francisco Giants. As strange as it felt, Matt Kemp was an opening day starter in Chavez Ravine and the fans, perhaps lured and hooked by his results in the spring, were thrilled to watch. In his first game, he went 1-3 with a walk and a strikeout and still, the fans were entranced. But, since that opening day start, Kemp has shown little signs of improvement in his small sample size of 18 at-bats.
In the 18 ab’s and the 21 plate appearance he has seen in 2018, Matt Kemp has walked just three times and has already been struck out six times. He has collected a total of four hits, one of which was a 69 mile per hour bloop double in Arizona. His bat, filled with what looks to be deception, has not shown signs of changes.
The fan fair for Kemp is great. Seeing a player that was once a key cog in the hearts of Dodger fans play for the team again is a thrill. He lost the weight and had a very successful spring but the moral of this story is to proceed with caution. Kemp’s statistics to this point have been releasable and there are plenty of minor league options ready and waiting in the wings. So, watch more critically and really consider the realities of Matt Kemp. I will ask you again, has he really reinvented himself?