MLB Free Agency: The highs and lows of long-term deals

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 7: Washington Nationals GM Mike Rizzo and left handed pitcher Patrick Corbin answers questions during his introductory news conference at Nationals Park. (Photo by Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 7: Washington Nationals GM Mike Rizzo and left handed pitcher Patrick Corbin answers questions during his introductory news conference at Nationals Park. (Photo by Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post via Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images) /

T-8. Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres, Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers, 2012-2018, +5.2

Like a fruitcake, Kemp’s 8 year, $160 million contract has been passed around the National League almost annually until it wound up back where it started.

The Dodgers signed Kemp to that deal following a 2011 season in which he batted .324 and led the National League in both home runs (39) and RBIs (126). A few seasons into the deal, however, even the Dodgers  decided the $21 million they owed him annually didn’t justify Kemp’s production. So in December of 2014 they sent him to San Diego in a five-player deal that returned Yasmani Grandal.

The deal was part of new GM A.J. Preller’s plan to reinvigorate the Padres. When it didn’t work Kemp went on the market again, this time to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for highly touted prospect Hector Olivera.  With the Braves, Kemp batted .280 in 2016 and .276 in 2017, but averaged only 15 home runs and 51 RBIs a season. With the Braves out of contention and Kemp’s salary again constituting a millstone, they shipped him back to the Dodgers for four players.

In LA, Kemp batted a respectable .290 in 506 plate appearances as the Dodgers won the National League pennant.

It’s not that Kemp was a bad player. He had only one truly sub-par season, that coming with the Braves in 2017 when he generated a -1.3 WAR. The problem was that he has never come especially close to justifying his $21.5 million annual salary. In the five seasons prior to signing that big deal, Kemp’s average OPS+ for the Dodgers was 126. Since signing that deal, his average OPS+ has been 119.1.