Matt Kemp…oh boy, where do we start?
First and foremost, Matt Kemp came into the 2017 season down about 25 pounds. He was leaner, quicker, healthier, and ripped the frickin’ cover off of the ball… for a while. Through June 2nd, at 42 games played, he was one of the best hitters in the league with a crazy good slash line: .351/.387/.614. That’s a 1.001 OPS that included 10HR and 16 doubles. All was right in the world, but it was a mirage.
Not enough words can describe how bad Kemp was from 6/3 and on. Put mildly, he was Danny Santana career numbers bad: .634 OPS to go along with the worst OF defense in the Major Leagues. He obviously wasn’t healthy, yet the manager decided to run him out there every day despite the numbers. Kemp has health issues that will be present for the rest of his life, not just his baseball career, and that’s unfortunate for him. However, from a baseball perspective, he just cannot maintain health throughout a season if he’s asked to play OF daily. His body cannot do it. Therefore, the inevitable needs to happen and that is Kemp goes to the AL to become a regular DH where he can utilize daily exercise to maintain weight and health.
So, that’s where we start. Kemp’s contract is a cancer to the Braves, but it doesn’t have to be a cancer to an AL team as he’s still a valuable bat that, if healthy, can be a difference maker. But we all know that the money he’s making, along with the production he had from 6/3 on will not make his presence on a team desirable. Luckily for the Braves, there are other teams of which have contracts they’d like to get rid of as well. With the best farm in baseball, the Braves can afford to attach a few lesser prospects (or former fallen prospects) to deals to put Kemp in a place where he can succeed and grab a need back as well. Ready to get started?
I sent out a PM on twitter to submit ideas on a Matt Kemp bad contract trade and there were many submissions and here’s how the game works. Tommy, Stephen, and I have chosen 1 each from the peanut gallery to discuss, and 1 each from our own noggins, so 6 total. Each person that submitted a PM to me, I’ll provide their trade ideas at the bottom so each person, even if not selected, can have a talking point either here or on Twitter. You guys ready? I’ll take on the challenge first
Ryan’s Selection from the Peanut Gallery for a Matt Kemp Trade
There were a lot of submissions of which I liked, but the one thing I kept coming back to was how untradeable Matt Kemp is at this juncture. Any team out there knows that he’s got to DH, and he might not even do it as well as other players said team could pick up on the cheap. Therefore, I had to throw this into the equation and I looked for 2 things:
- A team not looking to contend.
- A team that has a bad contract.
These 2 were my priority for picking the deal which led me to a great Braves follow. Here goes nothing!Provided by Doc aka @BravesHerbert
Royals get Kemp, Markakis, and Kyle Muller
The Royals are essentially going to lose everything they’ve held dear for the past 6 years and they’ll be looking to rebuild and shed some $. Unfortunately, Alex Gordon‘s contract is an albatross and they desperately need to rid themselves of it to make way for future plans. Packaging him with Soria brings back a real prospect in Muller and accelerates both their rebuild monetarily and in Minor League talent.
The Braves get a solid relief pitcher that can hold down back-end innings and Alex Gordon, a talented defensive outfielder whose offensive numbers have plummeted. Also, if this is a straight cash swap, it means the Braves are taking on an extra 28MM in salary over the course of the contract. Yes, it’s risky, but take this into consideration: Alex Gordon thrived under Braves current hitting coach, including his best offensive year to date where he OPS’d .879. Maybe under his tutelage again he can provide useful at-bats while manning left field. If not, he can always be platooned and still provide that well above average defense.
Ryan’s Matt Kemp Trade Idea
Red Sox get Matt Kemp
Braves get Rusney Castillo
Ok, so throw out the aforementioned rules and insert an asterisk and that asterisk is *dead money*. Rusney Castillo is owed right at 38 million dollars over the next 3 years and he’s not even on the Red Sox 40-man roster. In fact, he’s only seen 99 games of action in the Major Leagues, none of which came last year. So yes, he’s getting paid serious cash to play in the Minor Leagues. I think a change of scenery might be needed for both the Red Sox and Castillo. Here’s why I think that’s a possibility:
- The Red Sox outfield has no opening with Jackie Bradley Jr, Andrew Benintendi, and Mookie Betts together at least 4 more years.
- Hanley Ramirez is slated to take over at 1B with Mitch Moreland becoming a free agent.
- The money owed to Kemp is the same as is owed to Castillo, therefore if Kemp comes and flops, they can eat the contract, which was likely with Castillo already.
Braves could weigh how to use Castillo as his numbers were really good at AAA, but his numbers against LHP were elite therefore a platoon could make more sense. He’s strong enough defensively to man all 3 positions so there’s plenty of options that could work for a role: platoon partner, regular starter, seriously expensive 4th OFer.
Tommy’s Selection from the Peanut Gallery for a Matt Kemp Trade
This entire crowdsource “Trade Kemp” idea has its beginning with a series of offers sent to me by a friend and avid Braves fan all the way out in Hawaii. I’ve known Bryce for, jeez, a decade now and he’s one of my trusted sources on pitching. A former pitcher himself, it was a surprise that the offer we chose from him didn’t include an arm coming back to Atlanta. Instead, Bryce went the route of attaching some pieces with Kemp in hopes of just getting rid of Kemp’s salary. Let’s dive into his offer.
Provided by Bryce S. from the Facebook Group.
Braves get Dustin Garneau
What in the fresh hell is this? Who or what is Dustin Garneau?
Garneau is a 30-year-old catcher with 277 career plate appearances between Colorado and Oakland. He doesn’t have much in terms of framing numbers, has a career .255 wOBA, was claimed off waivers last summer for nothing, and has one option remaining. But this deal isn’t about Garneau. He’s Triple-A depth if he even gets that far before the Braves Tony Sanchez him.
This deal is effectively the Touki Toussaint deal from the other side with Garnaeu playing the role of Philip Gosselin. In Bryce’s deal, he packages an impressive right-hander with a lot of potential with a high-priced asset hoping to get the other side to take the contract just to acquire a top prospect. Ramirez is icing on the cake to help an A’s bullpen that had a 4.41 FIP in the second half after dealing relief aces Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle.
What I am struggling with is how Matt Kemp fits in with the A’s. No team wants to be forced to play him in left field, which leaves DH – a position played mostly by Ryon Healy in the second half. Healy is miscast as a third baseman and unlikely to keep Matt Olson out of the starting lineup at first base. More, Healy is effectively a Kempian player – good hit tool, low walk rate, big pop. He costs, oh, $21 million less to boot. You could argue that acquiring Kemp could free up the A’s to repurpose Healy or even Olson in a trade to acquire pitching. That’s fair enough.
I understand why the Braves make this move. I’ve long thought they would have to go down the Touki/Bronson Arroyo route to get Kemp moved without covering most of his salary. The problem with a straight comparison to that trade – one of Coppy’s finest – is that Arroyo was a one-year commitment. Taking on Kemp would be a two-year commitment. That means, for two years, the A’s would have Kemp taking up a quarter of their suggested payroll.
No deal lives in a vacuum. You can see how acquiring Kemp could lead to the A’s being able to potentially add a starter they can use this season via trade because of surplus assets. But even if you believe that could happen, I can’t imagine Billy Beane gets talked into this one. Not without serious financial support coming his way – negating much of the purpose of taking back a no-name non-prospect and attaching Wentz to the deal.
Tommy’s Matt Kemp Trade Idea
Two teams are saddled with large contracts. Both would rather move on completely from these hefty contracts, but most teams laugh at your feeble calls to organize a deal. Finally, the two teams get in touch with one another and start to think “one person’s trash is another person’s…less smelly trash?” The two teams start to believe in the old cliche about a player needing a change of scenery. Bam! – you have yourself a bad contract swap.
Braves get Ian Kennedy, $6M
Royals get Matt Kemp, Lucas SimsIn my deal, neither team is really excited about their haul. From the Royals side, they not only add salary to their 2018 and 2019 payrolls but also will need to fork over an additional $6 million. However, what they do get is a potential answer to a real weakness. In 2017, designated hitters for the Royals slashed a miserable .192/.271/.389. No AL team was as offensively inept from a position specifically focused on offense. Kemp may not be the MVP candidate he once was, but he could definitely outproduce the ugliness the Royals trotted out at DH last season. He could also help to replace one of the bats they likely will lose this offseason with franchise cornerstones Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, and Mike Moustakas all hitting free agency at the same time.
What’s that? The Royals should rebuild? Yes, they absolutely should. Even if the Royals do decide to rebuild, the Kemp offer could still work for them. A quick rebuild takes 3-4 seasons – Kemp’s salary would be gone by then. If the Royals bring back one of their star free agents, Kemp gives them some degree of offense to add to Whitt Merrifield and Salvador Perez as the Royals hope Alex Gordon bounces back and Jorge Bonifacio or Jorge Soler can add to the mix.
In addition, they add a young arm capable of plugging into a rotation that relied on Jason Vargas and Jason Hammel to start 64 games last year. It probably surprised you to find out either started one game in 2017. Sims may be a better fit in the pen, but similar to the Touki/Arroyo mix we talked about in Bryce’s deal, the Braves are trying to push a deal across the finish line by attaching a pitching prospect. This deal is also comparable to the Chris Johnson for Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher deal where the Braves sought to clear the financial ledger quicker by taking on bigger salaries, but for fewer years.
Meanwhile, the Braves add a starter who not only needs a change of scenery, but also a new-found focus on inducing weak contact. We all must grow up eventually and realize we aren’t the same guy we were when we were 27. For Kennedy, it’s time to embrace change and there is a model of that change hitting the free agent market this offseason. A few years ago, C.C. Sabathia looked like a goner, but he gave up trying to hit 95 mph again and accepted his limitations. He developed his cutter, a rarely used pitch before 2016, and began to utilize it as often as any other pitch. His control of the cutter helped to turn the tide on a big problem – not enough contact graded as a soft. Or, to put it another way, Sabathia started to get more weak grounders instead of slashed liners. The former turns into outs at a higher rate.
That could be Kennedy. He started to throw his cutter more last year, but still throws his four-seam fastball entirely too often. If he’s able to re-invent himself and increase the Soft contact, he could be a good innings eater at the bottom of a rotation that will hopefully be led by young guns like Luiz Gohara and Sean Newcomb. Keeping the Hard contact to a minimum is very important. The last year Kennedy had a Hard% under 35%, he had a 3.4 fWAR (2014). He’ll be 33 years-old in December and could be a useful arm provided he changes things about his pitching style.
Meanwhile, his contract, while more expensive and longer than Kemp’s, allows for more financial maneuvering due to a lower average annual cost ($16-$16.5M versus $21.5M). Further, by getting $6M, the Braves can lower their commitment a bit more.
This is not a sexy deal. The most likely outcome is that neither the Braves or Royals look great from this deal. But there is a chance one or both clubs benefit from this move. And frankly, that’s better than each club probably feels right now.
Stephen’s Selection from the Peanut Gallery for a Matt Kemp Trade
Provided by Brandon aka
Before I jump into this, I want to make one thing clear. In my opinion, the best thing Atlanta can do with Matt Kemp is cut him. The reason they’re in this mess to begin with is that they failed to just cut their losses from a bad move and instead doubled down on a bigger contract. Just cut him. It’s quick and simple.
But that’s not the point of this exercise. The point of this exercise is to see if there’s a way to get rid of Kemp and either save some of the money the Braves owe him or transfer that money to a more useful piece. Is it likely? No. But it’s fun to come up with possibilities and we could all use a little more fun in our lives.
So with that, let’s jump into Brandon’s idea:
Braves get Whit Merrifield
The unfortunate truth is, no one wants Matt Kemp. He’s old. He’s fat. He’s expensive. And he’s not very good at baseball. There’s this idea out there that he’s unmovable because of his contract. But that contract has two years and around 36 million left on it. And while that isn’t cheap, it really isn’t that big of a contract. If he was any kind of a decent player, this wouldn’t be that hard. But the reality is he’s a bat-only player who put up a 100 wRC+ last year. It’s hard to market a guy as a potential DH when he’s barely outhitting Nick Markakis.
What this means is you have to give a team an incentive to take him. Brandon’s idea was to use the positive value of Ian Anderson and Christian Pache to offset the negative value of Matt Kemp. But because Pache and Anderson have more positive value than Kemp has negative, Brandon included Whit Merrifield in the deal coming back to Atlanta. Merrifield is a pretty damn good player if you don’t know, so he helps Atlanta immediately.
In its logic, this is sound. You can think of it as two trades if it helps. Anderson is the incentive to take Kemp and Pache is the incentive to get Merrifield. (KC might want more for him)
You could even simplify this idea if you want. Remove Pache and Merrifield from it and shop this Kemp/Anderson combo all over baseball. Some team out there is probably willing to buy a top 75 prospect for 36 million. I’m sure some of you are saying just dump Kemp and keep the prospect but the cold hard truth is, if they don’t want or aren’t allowed to just cut him, this is probably what it’s going to take.
Stephen’s Matt Kemp Trade Idea
*shoutout to Andy aka @chattanoogarage for also submitting a piece similar
Tigers get Matt Kemp and Ian Anderson
Braves get Jordan Zimmermann.
This trade is pretty cut and dry. Detroit is rebuilding. Jordan Zimmermann has had two really mediocre years with the Tigers and they probably aren’t that interested in paying him the rest of the 74 million they owe him over the next 3 years. Enter Matt Kemp and his 36 million.
Braves trade all of Kemp’s contract for all of Zimmermann’s contract essentially knocking Zimmerman’s deal down to 3 years, 38 million. But once you knock Zimmermann’s commitment down to that level, he’s probably back to having positive trade value which is why there is the inclusion of Anderson. Don’t get hung up on the specific prospect I included as much as just understanding it’s probably going to be a guy around his level. Maybe DET wants a second guy in there too. I don’t know. They’ll probably use the Justin Verlander deal as a template.
For Atlanta, they remove Kemp, get a 31-year-old pitcher who was a 3 WAR player the last time he was in the NL and satisfy their likely need to add a veteran starter this off-season at a reasonable rate.
For Detroit, they save 38 million dollars, it all comes off the books a year sooner, and they get a solid prospect or two to add to their ongoing rebuild.
Would I do it? If cutting him wasn’t an option given to me then yeah, I’d seriously consider pulling the trigger on this. Prospects around Anderson’s level are usually given a value of around 30 million, so in both these deals, you’d have to decide if you’d rather have the money or the prospect. GMs and fans usually would rather have the prospects but the final say comes from people that might rather have the money.
So there you have it. Feel free to tell us how stupid we are in the comments.
Good Submissions Not Selected
1. From Joey (
Yankees get: Matt Kemp, *25MM, Matt Adams
2. From Andy Harris (@k26DP):
Jays get Kemp, Foltynewicz, Soroka, Wentz, and $20M
Braves get Donaldson and Stroman
3. 2nd from Andy Harris
Rays get Kemp and 25M
Braves get prospect Ronaldo Hernandez.
4. From Clay (@C_Norm22):
Braves get Felix Hernandez
5. Here’s Aaron Kirby (
Giants get Matt Kemp, Nick Markakis, and JJ
6. Here’s Alex (@tarheelbrave88):
Braves get Giancarlo Stanton
Do any of the trade ideas get your attention? Do you feel they are realistic? Let’s hear from you guys and gals!