Kemp isn’t what most teams need, but he might suit the Braves

San Diego Padres' Matt Kemp, right, gets a hug from teammate Brett Wallace after making an appearance in the dugout during the first inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds in San Diego, Saturday, July 30, 2016.

A goodbye hug in San Diego. (AP photo)

I’d be surprised if the Atlanta Braves made another major move before today’s 4 p.m. deadline, but I was surprised — nay, shocked — that they traded for Matt Kemp. Here’s a guy who had a WAR (wins above replacement) value of 8.2 in 2011 alone but a combined WAR of 4.6 in the 4 1/2 season since.

Since you asked, the Braves pay attention to WAR. Heck, their in-house analysts have tweaked the various formulas to come up with a WAR of their own. I’m not privy to that proprietary data, but I can’t imagine it shows anything we don’t already know: Kemp is a once-great player in prolonged decline who has become so dispensable that two teams have been willing not just to trade him but to absorb a a partial cost of his massive salary.

This was such an un-Braves like acquisition that it still seems a bit unreal. Yes, Kemp came in trade for the disgraced Hector Olivera, but the Braves could have eaten Olivera’s contract — he was owed $28.5 million over the next four years — and called it a day. Instead they’ve absorbed the added cost of $25.5 million for Kemp.

(He’s due to make $21.5 million each of the next three seasons. The Padres are paying $3.5 million of that per year. That’s $54 million the Braves now owe Kemp. Minus the $28.5 million for Olivera they offloaded, that’s $25.5 million, or $8.5 million per year.)

That final number is the one the Braves kept seeing: “We can get a guy who doesn’t do anything but hit home runs for $8.5 million a year.” If you’re the Orioles or the Blue Jays, who have a bunch of guys who can hit home runs, you’d have no need for Kemp. But the Braves as a team have 65 homers; Kemp has 23 by himself.

None of Kemp’s other numbers would have impelled the Braves to pay him a dime. He has 16 walks (three intentional) in 431 plate appearances. He’s among the worst right fielders in the sport. (He might wind up in left field here, at least until the Braves trade Markakis.) He stole 40 bases in 2011; he hasn’t tried to steal this season. Even with 23 homers and 69 RBIs, his Weighted Runs Created Plus is, per FanGraphs, 104. League average is 100.

To any other team, he wouldn’t be an $8.5-million-man, to say nothing of $21 million. That’s why the Dodgers were happy to trade him to the Padres two offseasons ago and why the Padres were willing to take and then cut Olivera and his $28.5 million. But the Braves saw just enough in Kemp to make an un-Braves-like move because they’re starved for power and even the arrival of Dansby Swanson/Ozzie Albies presumably next year won’t do much to change that.

If you hated watching Dan Uggla or either Upton, you’ll be frustrated by Kemp, too. He strikes out a lot. (One hundred Ks in those 431 plate appearances. That’s also something the Braves have been trying not to do.) David Schoenfield of ESPN’s SweetSpot wrote this Saturday: “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 looked like the most joyless baseball player ever.

The Braves surely know all this and more. (They have scouts. They have phones. They know how to text.) But they got Kemp because he can fill a need nobody currently in this organization is capable of filling. He can hit the ball over the wall.

Eight days ago, the sub-.500 Rockies completed a four-game home sweep. In those four games, the Braves were out-homered 10-2. Yes, the Rockies are used to such games, but Coors Field and altitude should help the visiting team, too. As of today, the Braves are on pace to finish their 162-game schedule with 100 home runs — exactly as many as last year, when they were likewise the worst in the majors.

When Mallex Smith gets healthy, the Braves were looking at an outfield of Smith, Ender Inciarte and Markakis. All are left-handed hitters, the three having combined for nine homers. Even if the right-handed Kemp does nothing else as a Brave — and he might well do nothing else — he’ll hit the occasional home run. He wouldn’t be worth $8.5 million to many other teams; he might be worth it here.

The Braves don’t need Kemp to be Babe Ruth. If he can manage even an passable impression of Dave Kingman, they’d be ecstatic.

Reader Comments 0

25 comments
TideDawg
TideDawg

Attorneys and agents are coaching Olivera to say all of the things people want to hear, but a man that will beat up a woman needs to go back to Cuba or wherever he came from. The only thing that can be rehabbed in a man like that is his speech.

TideDawg
TideDawg

I didn't like the Olivera trade when the Braves got him, but it happened. I don't care for Kemp either, but a Kemp on the field is better than an Olivera in jail.

Mike
Mike

What idiot would have traded for Olivera in the first place.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@Mike 

The Braves idiot who pulled the trigger on that deal a year ago.

DrTruth
DrTruth

@Mike As far as I know, there's only 2 people who've made that list so far.  (3 if you count his original ridiculous signing by LA)

DrTruth
DrTruth

Matt Kemp is now the highest paid Braves player in the entire history of the franchise (based on avg annual salary).  Each of the next 3 seasons, the Braves will cut actual take-it-to-the-bank paychecks of $18.25 Million (incl signing bonus) made out to one Matt Kemp.  Nobody in a Braves uniform has ever been paid that much.


Not Dan Uggla and his $12.4 Million/yr.

Not BJ Upton and his $15.05 Million/yr.

Not Freddie Freeman and his $16.875 Million/yr (backloaded deal)


Matt Kemp's contract is truly one of historic proportions for the Braves franchise.....Hope he lives up to it.



maxfield
maxfield

I'm not going to comment on the article, but I have followed Kemp throughout his career and became a fan.  Hopefully, he will put some punch into the lineup.  What I would like to comment on is the fact that I really enjoy your writing.  Not only is the content spot on, but the writing is superb.  Not since Furman Bisher has the journal had such an accomplished writer. 

Falcons2013
Falcons2013

Ok he puts pop back in lineup but isn't this what we specifically moved away from with BJ and Uggla. Overpriced veterans who hit occasional HR and strike out a ton. Although BJ turned it around thus year. Just seems contrary to direction team has been going. Also stop saying we gave up no prospects in trade. Consider that we ended up with kemp for pereza and wood not that either has lit it up since leaving.

khd713
khd713

@DrTruth You have to be one of the biggest blowhards on the planet, and you continue to post your tripe even after being completely embarrassed yesterday when you decided to start accusing people of not knowing their math. The "Truth" is that you know next to nothing about baseball finances. You think you are so clever because for some reason you think you are the only one who has figured out how big Matt Kemp's checks will be. Uh, I think most of us are pretty clear on how much they are paying Matt Kemp. We are also well aware of something you seem oblivious to, which is how much the Braves are saving in payroll by making this deal, while at the same time dumping a non-performing player for a contributing player. 


Do you know what a payroll is? In order to be a GM, I'm pretty sure you are going to have to learn what a payroll is. Does an $18 million-per-year contract exceed your personal salary cap or something? Is that why you are so concerned about it? Why are you so bothered by what the Braves (and others) are paying any one individual player? It just doesn't matter. This is baseball, and it's just money. The Braves need someone who can hit the ball over the fence. Next year, or the year after, someone will have a bigger contract I can assure you. Get over it!

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@DrTruth 

Don't forget Freddie Freeman's contract escalates to $20.859,375 next year.(according to SportTrac salary figures for 2017) He will be the all time yearly salary leader not Kemp. But even with Kemp making $18 Million and Freeman making $20 million and change. The braves will only have 3 more players under contract for 2017 making more than a million dollars a year Markakis $11Million (providing that he is not dumped in a trade) ,Teheran $6.46M, Flowers $3M .The only other player making more than $530K is Viz made $897K in 2016 and is eligible for arbitration in 2017. The rest of the players will be making the minimum MLB salary for 2017. The Braves front office spent a lot of bonus money this year signing draft picks and International players.But their actual payroll commitments for 2017 should put them in the bottom 5 of MLB teams. So what the heck , pay Kemp his $18 million a year until 2019. Hopefully by then some of the players in the system will be ready to play

DrTruth
DrTruth

@khd713  "You have to be one of the biggest blowhards on the planet..."  Hey there....Always nice to welcome back a fan!


"you think you are the only one who has figured out how big Matt Kemp's checks will be."  No.  I just think there are more than a few people confused because Coppy and you keep going around skewing team payroll numbers and Kemp's salary and saying things like "Kemp is only costing $8.5 Million/yr" without explaining that $8.5 Million/yr is NOT his salary.

This is where you started attacking Schultz and arguing that the original Olivera trade was not a mistake, even after I provided a link to Coppy's Q&A where he admitted that trade was "a bad trade for us and one I wish we had back."  But you know more than Coppy does about a trade he made, right?


khd713 1 day ago

The "mistake" here was not Coppolella's. The trade for Olivera made a lot of sense at the time. 


In the same post you shared just how poor you are at evaluating talent:


"...anyone who knows anything about baseball could take one look at the guy and see he would have been one of, if not the best player on this team easily. "

There are scout positions open at the Braves organization.  I'm pretty sure you don't qualify for one.


"Why are you so bothered by what the Braves (and others) are paying any one individual player? It just doesn't matter. "

It's a Braves blog.  This is a historic trade in this franchise.  Some people are interested in discussing the details of the trade.  If you're offended by that, then you probably shouldn't be here.  And if it doesn't matter to you, why are you here anyway.  Just to argue and pick fights? That's all you've done for 2 days now.....

DrTruth
DrTruth

@Buschleaguer  Freddie's salary does go up significantly next season, since it was a back-loaded contract.  He will be the highest paid Brave in any one season at that time.  Kemp still has the title of highest AVG annual salary.  Freddie's average is actually $16.25 MIllion/yr since it was really low up front, high in the back years.

They keep saying they have a bunch of payroll money to spend.  It would be nice to see some of that invested in quality players this winter to fill a couple of holes!

khd713
khd713

@DrTruth @khd713 " I wish you guys who failed math would stop posting."


And you are accusing me of picking fights? You started it, pal. I'm just finishing it by showing what an imbecile you are. You know nothing about baseball finance.

DrTruth
DrTruth

@khd713  Here, you can accuse yourself of picking fights:


khd713 2 days ago

I am so tired of the news media trying to shift blame where it does not belong, and Jeff Schultz has always been one of the worst offenders. It's typical journalistic spin to start from a false premise and then pile on....Schultz blaming the GM for a player's off-the-field actions is disingenuous spin and bogus journalism."


Remember when I had to smack you down a few days ago for this stupid comment?

"khd713 12 days ago

@DrTruth @ATLAquarius When has it been anything other than 2019? How long do you think it should take to groom 19- and 20-year-olds into major league players? As far as I know, the Braves have never set a specific timeline on how long this rebuild will take..."

UWreckMeBaby
UWreckMeBaby

Got us a clean up hitter now. I like it. Olivera was a dud.

patriotdog
patriotdog

He's 31 with 20-odd homers. Olivera is 31 with an assault charge pending. I'll take Kemp.

shotuff23
shotuff23

Bringing Olivera back to the Bigs would have been a PR night mare for the Braves especially in this era we live in. It's also about keeping your Corporate sponsors happy. Heck he still hasn't had his day in court yet so cutting ties with him was important. Now on to Kemp yes it was a very risky move but with how this season has gone I am just ready to see a couple of HR's. Heck bring the baby Braves up now and let them get wet behind the ears and see and experience some big league pitching!!!!

Can'o'corn
Can'o'corn

the braves keep saying it's kool-aid eventhough we can clearly tell it's dishwater

tyger
tyger

Great move...


Braves need great players...

Kemp on decline from All-star form...

But 31 ain't 51, and still best on team...


Prospects like lotto tickets...1/1000000....

Gman84
Gman84

You can talk yourself into anything...

ugagolf
ugagolf

I don't see your logic.  It's not $8.5 million.  It's $18.5 million.  The money Olivera made doesn't just go away.  It's embedded in Kemp's contract.  

ChessMaster
ChessMaster

@ugagolf Their logic is that the Olivera money was already spent. By making this trade, the Braves are only considering the additional cost, not the true cost. To the Padres, this is $10.5 million plus the cost of eating Olivera's contract. Neither team can do anything about the money that was already committed. They both viewed it as existing loses on their books.


DawgDadII
DawgDadII

@ChessMaster @ugagolf This marginal economic decision making focus may prove to be wise and astute. Keep doing this, though, and the accumulated total cost of past bad contracts can overload and sink the ship. When they run the payroll they aren't just paying Kemp at the marginal cost of this decision.


I don't dislike this move, but it is risky. If Kemp tanks or can't perform up to at least his recent standard the Braves have dug themselves a deeper hole. If he performs reasonably well for the Braves or well enough for the Braves to trade his salary away, then it's a good deal. There are indications he has physical problems that could constrain his ability. Do they need a hitter of his caliber in the lineup? Of course they do, past-tense, back to say, April of LAST year.


The overt spin from the front office and the press continues to be be a turnoff. NOW they're worried about winning games? They found a way to unload Olivera without further distraction and messy entanglements with the player, union, agent, press, interest groups (picketing at the new stadium?) and potentially the legal system. Good for them, hope it works out, I'm past tired of watching this expansion-team collection of fringe players, worn out vets, suspects, and bad contracts that cannot perform.

See_ATL
See_ATL

You are onto something. Keeping Olivera would have brought picketers to the stadium.....thus actually bringing someone to the new stadium!