LOS ANGELES — Three years after he was traded away, Matt Kemp is back with the Dodgers in yet another stunning move. The only question remaining now is just how long Kemp will stay.
“We have a lot of winter left,” Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said on Saturday, after Kemp was acquired from the Braves for four players in a move that could put the Dodgers under the luxury tax threshold as early as 2018.
Acquiring Kemp, who is due $43 million over the final two years of his contract, makes it hard to call this trade a salary dump by the Dodgers, but that’s really what it was. The team trimmed roughly $28 million in luxury tax salary off their payroll for 2018.
The Dodgers have paid nearly $150 million in luxury tax fees over the last five years, and are taxed at a 50% initial rate (the tax raises progressively the higher the payroll). The threshold for 2018 is $197 million, and in 2019 it jumps to $206 million. Getting under the threshold for one year would reset the tax back to 20% the next time the Dodgers exceed the threshold. Friedman called the luxury tax a focal point this offseason.
“Obviously one of the main considerations in this deal were economic. But also the bigger picture, the long-term plan,” Friedman said. “It’s a necessary, strategic part of moves yet to come. Whether that’s this offseason, in July or next year, this move allows for increased flexibility going forward.”
Kemp, now 33, hit .276/.318/.463 with 19 home runs in 115 games with the Braves in 2017, his lowest OPS+ (103) or wRC+ (100) since making his major league debut in 2006. No longer anywhere close to the player he once was defensively, Kemp registered negative Wins Above Replacement by both FanGraphs (-0.5) and Baseball-Reference (-1.3) last season.
Kemp at this point is limited to the corners. He has always hit left-handed pitching well, though that was down in 2017, too, hitting just .250/.330/.354 with three home runs against southpaws.
If Kemp remains a Dodger it’s hard to see him in a full-time role, especially with Andrew Toles coming back from an ACL injury joining an outfield mix that already includes Yasiel Puig, Chris Taylor, Kiké Hernandez and Joc Pederson.
The depth chart was something that Friedman and Kemp discussed.
“Just how it plays out from here, we’re not sure. I had a good conversation with Matt earlier, and was very honest and open with him about what the future might hold,” Friedman said. “It’s just too difficult to say definitively at this point.”
On what team will Matt Kemp be on on opening day in 2018?
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