Matt Kemp was one of the MLB’s best stories last season in his homecoming with the Los Angeles Dodgers. This winter, that homecoming might end.
The logic made sense. The Dodgers were trying to get under the luxury tax and gave up more salary than they received, which helped them get under that number. What made the deal smart for Atlanta was that the team could get everything off the books after 2018. Kemp is under contract through 2019.
At the time, it seemed like Kemp would never see the field as a Dodger. Every report indicated that Kemp would be traded in some capacity to make even more room under the cap. That did not happen and Kemp went into Spring Training and eventually landed a prominent role.
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What followed next was something that could only happen in Hollywood. Kemp was one of the best players of the entire first half, was an all-star and was a legitimate MVP candidate by the Midsummer Classic.
However, Kemp eventually fizzled out and his defense mostly kept him out of the postseason. While he had some big hits in the second half, particularly off of Archie Bradley, he was nowhere close to what he was in the first half.
Kemp won the hearts back of every Dodger fan that doubted his return and proved that he still had a deep love and admiration for LA. It is unclear what direction his career will take past 2019 but the chances are that the Dodgers do not re-sign him.
In fact, as much as I love Kemp, I think it is time for the Dodgers to finally execute on that trade this offseason.
Kemp has an $18.5 million cap hit on the Dodgers next season and it is unclear how much he will even play. The Dodgers, barring a trade, are going to add another outfielder to the mix in Alex Verdugo and there simply is not enough space for Kemp to have a prominent role.
If his defense was just slightly below average that would be one thing. However, Kemp is pretty bad in the field and the unless the offensive upgrade is significant, he cannot be played over other guys on a consistent basis.
Meanwhile, he is coming off of a year that has completely altered the course of his career and undoubtedly will warrant more interest than he did last offseason. Now, Kemp is a much more appealing piece to bring in as a DH for an American League team.
He proved last year that when he is on he still has enough pop in his swing to be a middle of the order bat. Take the defending away and allow him to solely focus on hitting and he will be golden.
Plus, the biggest reason is that golden carrot that is dangling over the Los Angeles Dodgers: Bryce Harper. Freeing up Kemp would make a Harper contract possible while also staying underneath the luxury tax. With Kemp, it is practically impossible.
If the Los Angeles Dodgers have no interest in Bryce Harper then fine, keep Kemp and give him another shot at reproducing that magic. The worst-case scenario is that Kemp can be a phantom DL guy (like Chase Utley was) to keep his presence in the locker room.
If that becomes an issue, the Dodgers could simply go the Carl Crawford direction and outright cut Kemp.
I do think the Dodgers have interest in Harper and even if the front office doesn’t, they still have an interest in saving money.
If an offer is on the table that makes sense from an American League team, Andrew Friedman would not think twice about pulling the trigger and trading Matt Kemp — and rightfully so.