In a trade completed Saturday that would have been a blockbuster a few years ago, the Los Angeles Dodgers sent four players (and a healthy amount of money) to the Atlanta Braves to bring back outfielder Matt Kemp. Going to Atlanta are first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, starting pitchers Scott Kazmir and Brandon McCarthy and shortstop Charlie Culberson. Per MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, the Braves will also receive cash considerations in the amount of $4.5 million from the 2017 National League champs.
The activity did not stop there, though. The Braves almost immediately designated Gonzalez for assignment, which makes him a free agent. Gonzalez, owed $21.5 million for the 2018 season, effectively lost his job as the Dodgers’ starting first baseman to National League rookie of the year Cody Bellinger after missing significant time with a back injury, leading the veteran to waive his no-trade clause for a chance to get regular at-bats elsewhere.
The trade appears to be an attempt by the Dodgers to shed payroll, and Kemp’s second go-round in L.A. could be short-lived. In making the deal, the Dodgers moved below the luxury-tax threshold for the first time in five seasons. Both Heyman and The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal speculated that Kemp is not long for the Dodgers, with Rosenthal noting the size of the 2011 NL MVP runner-up’s contract, which guarantees $43 million over the next two seasons.
Kazmir, who sat out the entire 2017 season, and McCarthy are entering the final year of their contracts. Culberson, who has never had more than 233 plate appearances in a season, was 8 for 16 with a homer and two RBI for the Dodgers in this year’s postseason.
Kemp played in 115 games for the Braves in 2017, batting .276 with 19 homers and 64 RBI. He posted a .781 OPS and was below replacement level at -0.5 FanGraphs WAR, the worst mark of his 12-year career.
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