The purging of the San Diego Padres continues, as general manager A.J. Preller has done what seemed impossible: He found somebody to take Matt Kemp and his contract off his hands, reportedly agreeing to trade him to the Atlanta Braves for third baseman/left fielder Hector Olivera. Yes, that's how far Kemp has fallen -- traded for a guy currently suspended under MLB's domestic violence rules for allegedly beating a woman.
Padres: 7 notable players traded from Opening Day roster incl 2/3 of starting outfield & 4/5 of starting rotation pic.twitter.com/kf60VnJLR8— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 30, 2016
Kemp is on pace for 36 home runs and more than 100 RBIs. Yet he has been barely above replacement level at 0.2 WAR, thanks to bad defense and a poor .285 OBP. The Padres actually sent cash to the Braves in the deal, but will save some money in the long-term based on the difference in the salaries between Kemp and Olivera. Trading Kemp (along with Melvin Upton Jr. earlier in the week to the Blue Jays) will also clear room for the Padres to call up Manuel Margot and/or Hunter Renfroe from Triple-A, two guys who will be competing with Travis Jankowski and Alex Dickerson for starting outfield positions in 2017. Reports also indicated that the Padres are likely to just cut Olivera -- a good move if that happens -- as he can't play to go along with his reprehensible off-field behavior.
What do the Braves get here? Well, mostly they get rid of Olivera. They obviously need offense, and Kemp is signed through 2019, although he hasn't been worth more than 1.0 WAR since 2012. He still has power, but that's the lone source of his positives right now, as he has drawn just 16 walks against 100 strikeouts, good for a .285 OBP. His Defensive Runs Saved figures the past four seasons are minus-6, minus-23, minus-15, and minus-6 so far in 2016, suggesting he's best suited for DH duties in the American League, not a regular spot in right field. Maybe Braves GM John Coppolella believes he can flip Kemp immediately or in the offseason to an AL team. Or maybe the Braves just don't put a lot of stock in defensive metrics, considering they traded away Andrelton Simmons in the offseason.
One thing that turns me off on Kemp is what I see from him during games. I was at a Padres-Dodgers game right before the All-Star break and never saw a player display such bad body language in a game. He'd slam his bat in disgust when he made an out, as if he had never done that before. He'd take a good minute to walk from the on-deck circle to home plate, the pitcher standing there waiting for Kemp to finally get in the batter's box. Jog out to his position? Yeah, right. He looked like the most joyless baseball player ever. Look, that could be nothing and maybe his teammates don't care (and maybe I saw him on a bad day, although Padres fans on Twitter have confirmed this behavior as a regular thing). Still, he's not really the kind of player I'd want as an example around a rebuilding team -- although it should be noted the Braves' position players are not young as they have the second-oldest average age (weighted by playing time) in the NL, behind only the Mets.
One more note here. Jeff Passan of Yahoo raises a secondary point about the Padres' deals this season:
1) It is unquestionably what a rebuilding team ought do, so long as the rules are structured as they are. Worth asking: Should they be?— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 30, 2016
Because 2) When a team's payroll is next to nothing, as the Padres' will be, what happens to the $100M-plus they're getting in shared money?— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 30, 2016
3) It goes into owners' pockets. And that's the main gripe: A complete teardown neuters the entire purpose of MLB's monetary redistribution.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 30, 2016
This is what has always ticked off teams like the Yankees -- they give money to the small-market teams and some of them don't spend it. The Padres -- after last year's ill-advised attempt to make a playoff run -- smartly reversed course and have added prospects (starting with last winter's Craig Kimbrel trade) and cut payroll. That bodes well for the future ... as long as the money that is pocketed now is eventually spent to help build a better team.