On the day after one of the largest trades in franchise history, we have reached our most bittersweet review of the 2014 Dodgers. We look back on the year of Matt Kemp, his final year with Los Angeles.
What went right
After two years plagued by injuries, after three surgeries and six trips to the disabled list, Kemp was finally healthy in 2014, playing in 150 games for the fifth time in his career, and the first time since 2011.
When factoring in missing the first five games of the year on the disabled list, plus the five consecutive non-starts in May during his contentious transition from center field to left field, Kemp started 148 of 152 games, only getting time off for occasional rest.
Kemp tied a career high with 38 doubles, and hit 25 home runs, fueling his .287/.346/.506 season. Among qualified major league hitters, his 140 OPS+ and 140 wRC+ both ranked 16th in the majors.
After the All-Star break, further removed from two offseasons of shoulder surgeries that sapped his power, Kemp broke out, showing glimpses of the otherworldly player he was in 2011 and in April 2012. In 64 games, Kemp hit .309/.365/.606 with 17 home runs and 54 RBI, combining with Adrian Gonzalez (.314/.368/.561, 13 home runs, 20 doubles, 56 RBI) to form the best post-break offensive combination in baseball.
Kemp also hit .353 (6-for-17) in the NLDS against the Cardinals, including the game-winning home run in the eighth inning to win Game 2, in what turned out to be his final home at-bat as a Dodger.
Kemp ends his Dodgers career hitting .292/.349/.495, a 128 OPS+ in 1,116 games, one of 32 in franchise history to play at least 1,000 games. Kemp was a dynamic player, ranking eighth in franchise with 182 home runs, including fourth in LA Dodgers history; and sixth in LA Dodgers history with 170 stolen bases.
He hit 104 home runs at home, one of four players in history with 100 home runs at Dodger Stadium, joining Eric Karros (130), Ron Cey (123) and Steve Garvey (118).
A little more than 16 years later, Kemp is this generation's Mike Piazza, a shining light that at its brightest played at an MVP level, though neither have actual trophies to show for it. And both were dealt very near the finish of Logan's Run.
What went wrong
After years of defensive metrics telling a different story than his two Gold Glove Awards in center field, Kemp in 2014 saw his defense degenerate to the point where manager Don Mattingly felt compelled to move Kemp out of center. The transition to left field was anything but smooth, with days of pouting and sulking by Kemp accompanied by five straight games of sitting on the bench.
After a month and a half, Kemp was switched over to right field, the position of his major league youth, and he settled in, helping the Dodgers to stabilize its lineup down the stretch.
Kemp's worst month was May, when he hit .266/.293/.362 with one home run in 26 games.
After three hamstring strains, two shoulder surgeries and an ankle surgery that was well known and public information, Kemp this week had the ignominy of having confidential medical information from his physical with the Padres released, namely that he has arthritis in both of his hips. The condition was ultimately nothing more than a speed bump, not derailing nor altering his trade to San Diego.
Salary: $21 million
Game of the year
We talked about Kemp's game-winning home run in the NLDS above, so we'll pick a regular season game here. Kemp was 3-for-4 with two home runs and four RBI in an 8-4 win over the Braves on July 29. It was one of two multi-homer games for Kemp in 2014, giving him seven such games in his career.
A full 11 years, six months and 13 days after getting drafted by the Dodgers, Kemp is no longer in the organization, traded to the Padres in a five-player deal that was finalized on Thursday night. Kemp has five years and $107 million remaining on his eight-year contract signed three years ago, of which the Dodgers will send $32 million to San Diego.