Acquired OF-R Matt Kemp and cash from San Diego Padres in exchange for IF/OF-R Hector Olivera. [7/31]
I’m going to go out on a limb here early and say that this is an excellent deal for the Braves. I’m sure that it may be tough to imagine that, given what a disappointment Kemp has been since his near-MVP campaign several seasons back. But hear me out. The Braves transformed a dead-weight contract in Olivera into a functional outfielder, at the additional cost of about $25 million over three seasons. The original Olivera trade was an unmitigated disaster for the Braves; even if the players they gave up like Alex Wood and Jose Peraza aren’t exactly setting baseball on fire, the Braves got only a handful of games out of Olivera before his suspension under MLB’s domestic violence policy. Turning his dead-weight contract into a functional ballplayer–probably the second-best position player on the roster now–for an $8 million per year investment is a nice little move.
The Braves acquire the new Matt Kemp, a defensively-poor corner outfielder (-6.4 FRAA this season) capable of stretches of success and stretches of inadequacy, as exemplified during his 2015 season. During all but one month of the season, Kemp was an average hitter or better, but the month of May was a complete disaster, with Kemp posting a .186/.225/.212 triple-slash line. That level of awfulness was enough to drag down his seasonal line to a respectable, but not elite .265/.312/.443 and .273 True Average. He’s at almost the exact same TAv this year (.274) after yet another May swoon (.186/.189/.373). Perhaps if the Braves just sit him or put him on the DL for the fifth month of the year, he could be a bit better over the course of the season, but as of now he’s a solid contributor but no elite outfielder.
Kemp Is a long way from his peak, but he’s also a long way from the garbage collection of left fielders that the Braves had been running out this season. Mallex Smith has been the best of a bad bunch, and he’s injured and out of commission. Other than that, the team has been fielding 11 different players in that role, with stalwarts like Jeff Francoeur, Jace Peterson, and Emilio Bonifacio filling in. Kemp is an immediate upgrade over every single player the team has played in left this season, and while a 37-win Braves team isn’t going to magically turn into a contender with Kemp, he should make the squad a little less embarrassing in the interim. Given Kemp’s excitement about playing in Atlanta, and the team’s desire for more star power as they move into their new stadium, this looks like a pretty good deal all around, even if he’s a two-win player these days instead of a five-win All-Star. —Bryan Grosnick
From one bad team to another, one bad hitters' park to another, not much changes for Kemp. I actually slightly prefer San Diego’s supporting cast to Atlanta’s, but the difference is so small as to be marginal. It’s too bad Kemp can’t escape playing in pitchers' parks, but if he’s got enough power to hit ‘em out at Petco, he’s got enough power to hit ‘em out anywhere. Unfortunately that’s about all he can do these days. —Ben Carsley
Jeff Francoeur, Adonis Garcia
This has to be rough for those of you in 30-team NL-only leagues with six outfielders. —Ben Carsley
Acquired IF/OF-R Hector Olivera from Atlanta Braves for OF-R Matt Kemp and cash. [7/31]
So, the Padres technically acquire Olivera, but he’s just a placeholder for a dead-money contract. Immediately after acquiring the once-hyped Cuban import, the Padres have DFA’d him, which effectively means that the Kemp deal was a straight salary dump. By taking on Olivera’s contract and sending $10.5 million to the Braves, the Padres effectively save about $25 million over the next three years. That’s not chump change; you can sign a Joakim Soria or Asdrubal Cabrera for that kind of money, or invest it in acquiring young talent internationally. Heck, you could probably even buy everything in a Target.
Moving Kemp also opens up a roster slot that the Padres can use to give another player a chance, whether that’s Hunter Renfroe or Manny Margot or someone else. And given that the Padres aren’t competitive right now, they may benefit more from giving a young talent a chance than playing the veteran Kemp every day. The improvement by a win or so over the second half of this season–or perhaps even a brace of wins over the next three seasons–may not be worth as much as the opportunity cost that they gain by opening up that slot and saving about $25 million.
Most importantly, I think that this deal says something about the A.J. Preller Padres: not only is this team willing to be dynamic and active in the trade market, but this team is also not willing to buy into the sunk cost fallacy. It became clear very quickly that the Matt Kemp deal–heck, probably the whole “win now” Padres–was a failed gambit. Instead of throwing good money after bad, the Padres have moved players like Craig Kimbrel, Andrew Cashner, Melvin Upton, and now Matt Kemp in the hopes of restocking the farm system and playing the long game. That’s admirable: don’t let past mistakes get in the way of a brighter tomorrow. Of course, the brightest tomorrow springs from not making a widely-panned trade of Yasmani Grandal for Kemp in the first place, but hey, live and learn. —Bryan Grosnick
Jabari Blash, Manuel Margot, Hunter Renfroe
I’m not at all a believer in Blash, but the Padres called him up in the wake of the Kemp trade and he figures to see some playing time in a barren outfield. Blash is, unsurprisingly, hitting for decent power in Triple-A, slugging .514 and posting a .254 ISO. He strikes out far too often and is a one-trick pony when it comes to fantasy potential, but hey, playing time is playing time. Margot is hitting .304/.355/.428 in Triple-A. Renfroe is hitting .321/.349/.585 in Triple-A. On one hand, the Padres have no reason to start their arbitration clocks. On the other, they’re both clearly ready for a challenge at the next level, and a Travis Jankowski, Alex Dickerson, Jabari Blash outfield leaves very little in their way. —Ben Carsley