When the Dodgers traded for Matt Kemp, it was a salary dump, a bad attitude dump as well as the opportunity to acquire a young, power hitting catcher with mad framing skills. I embraced the trade for all the reasons it was made. While he could be charming, Matt Kemp was frequently a malcontent prima donna in the lockerroom. I felt he was a poison, so I was excited to see him go even though he was responsible for one of the most electric moments I have ever seen in baseball.
Here’s the story:
Manny Ramirez was the darling of LA and Ned Colletti invited all the bloggers in for Bloggers Night on May 6th, 2009. At that meeting in one of the Dodger Suites, Josh Rawitch (then the Dodgers Director of Communications) announced that in the near future, the Dodgers were going to break with tradition and allow bloggers into the pressbox on a limited basis. After, the meeting I approached Josh privately and said “Look, since I have come all the way from Indiana and everyone else in in the LA area, I think it’s only fitting that I should be the first blogger to sit in the Pressbox.” To my surprise, he said “OK.”
As I was driving to Dodger Stadium the next morning, Jared Massey called me and said that Manny had been suspended. I thought he was joking and then turned on the radio and heard it was no joke. I got to the ballpark early and tagged along with Tony Jackson to the Pressbox, Locker Room and all over the stadium. Josh explained to me beforehand that I could not wear Dodger gear in the pressbox and that I had to maintain neutrality, meaning I wasn’t supposed to cheer for the team. It was then I was granted a “Working Media Pass.”
That became problemmatic and I was tested early when the Dodgers loaded the bases in the first inning, and with one out, Matt Kemp hit a Grand Slam to CF! I almost jumped out of the pressbox, before I realized I wasn’t supposed to be doing that. What a moment! Manny was just suspended and the Dodgers came out with guns blazing. I wish I could say it had a happy ending, but it didn’t. The Dodgers lost 11-9 with Ramon Troncoso, Cory Wade, Brent Leach and James McDonald giving up 10 runs in the 7th, 8th and 9th innings. But, that is the story of how I became the first blogger to be issued a “Working Media Pass” for Major League Baseball at Dodger Stadium. What a day! The picture to the right was taken that very day.
Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming:
The longer Matt Kemp is on the Dodgers roster, the more likely he will make the Openig Day Roster. Now, a lot has to happen for that to occur:
- No other team will offer enough money or prospects for FAZ to trade him;
- He needs to get into the best shaped of his life;
- He has to play better defense (and he can – he has in the past – he was never a Gold Glove, even though he won one, but he was OK); and
- He also needs to clean up his attitude… and I mean a lot!
That’s a lot that needs to happen, but it could. Andrew Friedman has talked to him and evidently been totally upfront with Matt and while I am not holding my breath or counting on it, Matt Kemp could have the opportunity for an encore performance at Dodger Stadium in 2018. They say you can never go home… and maybe you can’t… but maybe you can. Matt Kemp has very little value which is why he was traded for very little value, but in 2016 Matt Kemp put up these numbers:
- 39 HR
- 108 RBI
- .268 BA
- .755 OPS
He still has a career OPS of .826 and has OPS’ed over .900 twice. Tell me that 39 HR would not look good in the 6th or 7th spot! Toles or Pederson could be his defensive caddy in LF. Frankly, it’s a longshot… but it could happen. It also could happen that some team agrees to pay $16 million of his $42 million dollar deal, and if they do, he is gone. A guy can still dream, right?
Finally, I am publishing Houston Mitchell’s Dodger Dougout E-Mail. If you haven’t signed up for it, I recommend that you do.
Houston Mitchell – Dodgers Dugout:
Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell, and I’m wondering if Rihanna is happy Matt Kemp is back in L.A., if only for a short time.
So Saturday brought some big news. The Dodgers traded Adrian Gonzalez, Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir and Charlie Culberson to the Atlanta Braves for Matt Kemp. What the heck is going on?
What’s going on is money. This was a straight payroll dump for both teams. Let’s take a look at the players involved and what they are scheduled to make.
Adrian Gonzalez: He will be paid $22.357 million in 2018 by the Braves, who released him the same day they acquired him.
Brandon McCarthy: He will be paid $11.5 million by the Braves in 2018. Atlanta has him penciled in as a starter. McCarthy played three seasons with the Dodgers, going 11-7 with a 4.51 ERA in 29 starts. For that, he got paid about $36 million.
Scott Kazmir: He will be paid $17.7 million by the Braves in 2018. Atlanta also has him penciled in as a starter, and hopefully that pencil has a good eraser, because the Dodgers paid him about $30 million over two seasons to go 10-6 with a 4.56 ERA in 26 starts.
Charlie Culberson: He will get a lot of playing time with Atlanta, which is close to his hometown in Georgia. I liked Culberson a lot, and hopefully he gets a nice ovation when the Braves visit L.A. next season. He had 80 regular-season at-bats in his Dodger career, but he will always be remembered for the game-winning homer he hit in Vin Scully’s final home game, and for doing a great job filling in for an injured Corey Seager in the 2017 NLCS, going five for 11 with two doubles and a triple. He followed that up by going three for five with a homer in the World Series. He will more than likely make a little over the major league minimum in 2018.
Matt Kemp: He is owed approximately $43.5 over the next two seasons. He is no longer the player he once was, and is regarded by most as one of the worst defensive outfielders in baseball. It is extremely unlikely he actually ends up playing for the Dodgers, as they are expected to trade him or just release him before the season. As Andrew Friedman said on the day of the trade: “I was very open and honest with him about what the future might hold. It’s just too difficult to say, definitively, at this point.”
So, what does all this mean? This is all about the Dodgers getting under the payroll luxury tax next season. Each season, Major League Baseball sets a payroll threshold. If a team goes over that threshold, they have to pay a penalty. Each year they go over the threshold, the penalty they pay increases. The first year you go over, the penalty is 20% on the dollar (for example, if you are $1,000,000 over the threshold, you owe $200,000). If you go over for a second straight year, you owe 30%, for the third and subsequent consecutive years, you owe 50%.
The Dodgers have been over the threshold for the last two seasons (2016-17). The team was assessed a $36.2-million tax this year, based on a season-ending payroll of $253.6 million.
Thanks to the way contracts are valued under the collective bargaining agreement, Saturday’s trade puts the Dodgers under the 2018 total payroll threshold of $197 million. They currently have a payroll of approximately $173 million. They still need to add a few bench players/relievers, so they will probably go into 2018 with a payroll of $175-$180 million.
Why is this so important? Because, once you come in under the payroll threshold, your penalty resets. So, if in 2019 the Dodgers go back over the threshold, their penalty will be 20%, not 50%. And the 2018 off-season will be filled with top free agents, such as:
Clayton Kershaw (assuming he opts out of his current deal)
And that’s just to name a few. So this trade was all about positioning themselves to sign a couple of big names after the 2018 season, in which they are still favored by most to win the World Series.
Or, as Friedman said when this was pointed out, “Oh, I hadn’t noticed. Is there a big free-agent class next winter?”
It is sad to see Adrian Gonzalez go. He was the heart and soul of the Dodgers offense for many seasons before his back gave out on him, and was one of the most popular Dodgers of all time. He had this message for Dodgers fans after he was traded (Gonzalez had to waive his no-trade clause for the deal to go through):
“My final decision was not based on playing time as I had agreed to a limited bench role. It is a way to test the free agent market and see what opportunities are out there for me so I can make the best decision moving forward for me and my family. Lifting the no-trade clause is the hardest decision I have ever made in my career due to the fact that I loved every single second being a Dodger.
“I have talked through this whole process with Andrew and the Dodgers organization and they are giving me this opportunity to see if there is a better fit for me somewhere else. As the roster stands right now, there might not be a spot for me on the roster.
“I want to thank the Dodgers owners for being the best owners I have ever played for. Also my coaches and teammates because with them we had an amazing five years together. And most importantly to all the Dodgers fans, no word or phrase can describe how grateful and blessed I am to have been a part of their cheers and support.
“The entire Dodger nation welcomed me with open arms and took me in right away. Thank you for everything to the fans and the city of LA. You will always be in my heart. This closes a chapter for me, but not the book.”
Who are the greatest Dodgers of all time? Look for more on this after the holidays as I turn to you to help decide. Start thinking about your top 10 all time. Brooklyn and Los Angeles. Player, owner, announcer, any person with a connection to the Dodgers counts. Voting will begin in January. Until then, enjoy your holidays!