Grade the Trade: Dodgers trade Matt Kemp to the Padres


It’s uncommon for the Los Angeles Dodgers to trade a player for salary relief. After the 2014 season, they were eager to do this when the San Diego Padres were willing to take on the expenses of a player the Dodgers no longer had room for.

Outfielder Matt Kemp enjoyed parts of nine seasons with the Dodgers beginning in 2006. Over that time, he hit .292/.349/.495. He led the league in home runs and RBI in 2011, which helped earn him a second-place MVP finish.

Kemp’s abilities did begin to decline over the next few seasons, in part due to an injury that limited him to 73 games in 2013. After a while, fans and the organization turned on this once valuable piece of the franchise’s core.

The Dodgers made the mistake of signing Kemp to a very large extension worth more than $20 million per year through 2019. They’re still paying a part of his yearly salary through the end of the deal, but escaped the bulk of the contract. This was the primary goal in this particular trade with the Padres, which has served them well.

Fortunately for the Dodgers, this deal turned into more than a salary dump. They also managed to acquire starting catcher Yasmani Grandal in the trade.

Three other players were included in this swap. Tim Federowicz and some cash joined Kemp in San Diego. Moving northward with Grandal were pitchers Joe Wieland and Zach Eflin. Neither is with the Dodgers any longer. As a result, they don’t factor into this trade’s grade.

Instead, this deal’s marks come from what the Dodgers accomplished. The Kemp trade cleared a lot of payroll for other decisions. It effectively changed a part of their team’s culture while paving a path for Joc Pederson to play in 2015. Grandal’s presence also gave the Dodgers a boost. His accomplishments thus far include a 2015 All-Star selection and a 22nd-place MVP finish in the 2016 voting. Though his talents are sometimes limited to hitting with power, Grandal is an above average defensive catcher.

Meanwhile, Kemp completed only one season with the Padres. It was highly criticized even though he drove in 100 runs. It’s the fact that his batting average and OBP dipped significantly which caught the wrath of Padres fans.

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Kemp was one of the symbolic players involved in the disastrous 2015 season alongside the likes of Justin Upton, Craig Kimbrel and others who performed below expectations. Because the Padres disappointed so greatly that year, management wanted to rectify the situation very quickly. To do this, they had to wipe away as much evidence that they ever tried in 2015.

It became clear that Kemp shouldn’t stay in San Diego for long. The next season he was traded to the Atlanta Braves. Again, this was partly to save some money. Even though the Padres will also continue to pay a part of his salary through 2019, they aren’t paying the majority. That’s now on the Braves.

The Padres suffered the loss in this trade. Not only did they have to pay a large part of Kemp’s salary, they didn’t get anything of great value back from the Braves. Hector Olivera was all the Braves gave them in exchange for Kemp. This was purely a financially based trade with two players on bad contracts swapping jerseys. To their credit, they did get out of it quickly.

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The Dodgers earned themselves a nice passing grade for this deal. By dealing Kemp, a new generation of Dodgers had room to grow. The savings also allowed them to make other signings in the future, such as retaining Justin Turner and Kenley Jansen in this most recent offseason. Minus Kemp’s albatross deal, they could sign the players they wanted far more easily.