By Patrick Brewer, Lead National League Writer
The trade of the offseason. The move that would turn a team’s fortunes around. A new leader to lead the Padres into a new era. This was what was said of the Matt Kemp trade immediately in its aftermath. On December 18th the trade was finally made official after a few days of speculation and holdups; Matt Kemp was traded from the Dodgers to the Padres along with Tim Fedorowicz and 32 million dollars to cover part of Kemp’s contract in return for Yasmani Grandal, Joe Wieland, and Zach Elfin. This was the first major blockbuster of the offseason and was supposed to vault the Padres into a contender once again. The Padres followed with the acquisitions of Justin Upton, Wil Myers, Derek Norris, Will Middlebrooks, and James Shields to complete what was an offseason frenzy filled with moves set to fix the Padres franchise. Approximately seven months later the trade has been anything but a fix.
Maybe the Dodgers knew something the Padres didn’t? Maybe AJ Preller was just naive in his rush to make a splash and make something happen? Maybe the Padres knew what they were getting into but saw some positives in Matt Kemp’s future role on the team? Whatever the reason for making the trade for both sides, the Dodgers seem to have immensely benefited from the deal while the Padres have found themselves in a bit of trouble as a result. Being less than a year out from the trade, it is a little difficult to fully assess the final impact of the trade from both sides. Nevertheless, in the short time since the trade was consummated, the Dodgers have been clear winners by anyone’s standards.
To begin it helps to evaluate the circumstances surrounding the trade and what both teams were hoping to get out of the deal. It was clear for a majority of the 2014 season that the Dodgers needed to get rid of someone. They had a crowded outfield with Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford, Yasiel Puig, and Andre Ethier all buying for time at the big league level with young Joc Pederson waiting for his chance to get a call up as well. In trading Kemp the Dodgers hoped to get rid of the largest contract of any of their outfielders as well as guy who seemed to have worn out his welcome in Los Angeles. On the other hand they saw Yasmani Grandal as a talented young catcher who had a high upside for the future. For them the deal was a no brainer if they could make it happen.
For the Padres the focus of the trade was on acquiring a player of Matt Kemp’s caliber. He was an All-Star caliber player that at point was close to winning an MVP award. He was to be the first of a flurry of moves to acquire right-handed power to vastly improve the Padres historically awful offense in order to potentially make a playoff run. Matt Kemp checked off all the boxes for the Padres and seemed like the best fit. In terms of Grandal, AJ Preller saw a guy who had both lost the confidence of a good portion of the Padres pitching staff and had a history with both performance enhancing drugs and character issues. The Padres hoped to use his trade value in order to acquire a player they saw as a high character, team leader type player with which they could win immediately. Joe Wieland and Zach Elfin were just two throw ins to ensure the deal was fair for both sides. The Dodgers would quickly turn around Zach Elfin to acquire veteran Shortstop Jimmy Rollins.
With the hindsights and goals of each team in mind, it is critical to evaluate the current performance of all the players involved in order to assess who was the winner of the trade and who was the loser.
Jimmy Rollins- .214/.268/.339 wRC+= 72
Although he was not specifically a part of the trade, he was acquired with one of the players the Dodgers acquired from the Padres so it is relevant for this discussion. Jimmy Rollins was a bit of a risk for the Dodgers, given his age and the possibility for decline, and he has been quite a bit of a disappointment for them so far on the season. As the Dodgers full-time shortstop Jimmy Rollins has left a lot to be desired. With Corey Seager nearly ready in AAA the Dodgers may not wait to call him up to the big leagues, and Rollins may find himself on the bench or on his way out of Los Angeles. In terms of Rollins the Dodgers did not get what they wanted and thus lost this portion of the trade.
Joe Wieland/Zach Elfin- 11.57 ERA in 4.2 Innings pitched at the big league level for Wieland
These two players were more of throw ins to the bigger trade of Matt Kemp for Yasmani Grandal but both still hold some value. Elfin was used to acquire Rollins, and while Rollins has not been what was expected he has still been a contributing member of the Dodgers 2015 starting lineup/roster. On the other hand Wieland is still on the Dodgers and has a little more upside for the club.
Joc Pederson- .228/.364/.486 wRC+= 140
While Pederson was not involved in this trade at all, the trade of Matt Kemp opened up a spot in the outfield for Pederson and has thus allowed him to shine. And shine he has. Pederson made his first All-Star appearance this week and looks poised to have a great career with many All-Star appearances in the future. The Dodgers clearly did the right thing by opening up a position for him to play in the outfield this year.
Tim Federowicz is a bit of a wild card in this whole trade. He got hurt early on in Spring training and has yet to get any playing time so far this season. His value in this trade won’t really be able to be analyzed until the end of the season. He should be returning some time right after the All star break from his injury and will most likely find himself a place on the Padres major league roster.
Yasmani Grandal- .278/.392/.522 wRC+ = 159
Grandal was the main trade chip going back to the Dodgers for Matt Kemp. Grandal was always a good defensive catcher with the Padres but he struggled to find his bat his first few years with the team. This year can be considered quite a breakout for him offensively. On top of that he has maintained his stellar defensive numbers making him one of the best all around catchers in the league and led to him making his first All-Star appearance as well. This seems like an absolute steal for the Dodgers based on his performance alone.
Matt Kemp- .243/.282/.367 wRC+ = 83
It is clear that up to this point on the season the Padres have been absolutely fleeced on this trade. This seems to be clearly the worst trade of AJ Preller’s offseason and one he has to be regretting. There is obviously still the chance that Kemp will bounce back and be the player he used to be but as of now he has not been good by any stretch of the imagination. If he is to recover, and the Padres get a positive contribution out of Federowicz, this trade may look a little better in the future. Although that Kemp contract is going to start hurting the Padres next year if he continues to perform at such a low-level.
The Dodgers absolutely won this trade hands down. Not only did they dump the contract of Matt Kemp but they also acquired their catcher of the future in Yasmani Grandal (an All-Star as well as made room for a highly touted prospect in Joc Pederson (who is also now an All-Star). On the other hand for the Padres they lost two good pitching prospects and gave up a great young catcher for a player who is perhaps already past his prime and are now saddled with a massive contract for a player with only a fraction of that value.