When he was reacquired, Matt Kemp wasn’t long for this team. Instead, he gave the Dodgers a solid first half when the team needed it most.
What went right
Kemp was acquired in a bit of a salary shift. The Dodgers sent Charlie Culberson, Adrian Gonzalez, Scott Kazmir and Brandon McCarthy to the Braves for Kemp in a trade that caught everyone by surprise.
Instead of outright designating Kemp for assignment, the front office tried to trade him with no luck. It turns out, that was actually a good thing. Kemp, coming off three mediocre seasons with the Padres and Braves, was the biggest surprise of the first half for the Dodgers and potentially in baseball. He hit .310/.352/.522 with 15 home runs and a 137 wRC+. That performance earned him a place on the National League All-Star team. He started the game and hit in the fifth spot (between Freddie Freeman and Bryce Harper) and went 1-for-2 with a double.
His second half was — on the whole — below-average, but Kemp did have a couple signature moments despite the struggle. In back-to-back games to begin September against the Diamondbacks, Kemp hit a game-winning three-run home run and a game-winning two-run double. Both hits came off Archie Bradley and were two of his top four win probability added marks of the season.
Kemp made his first World Series appearance and despite a 4-for-23 postseason, he was responsible for the Dodgers’ first run of the Fall Classic by taking Chris Sale over the Green Monster.
Hollywood is in the house! #WorldSeries pic.twitter.com/PsjbActMG8— MLB (@MLB) October 24, 2018
What went wrong
As I alluded to up top, Kemp’s second half was not great. He hit just .255/.313/.406 with five home runs. August was his worst month, as he hit just .214/.291/.286 in 79 plate appearances. It was a poor stretch that put a damper on an otherwise pleasantly surprising campaign for the again-former Dodgers.
He struggled defensively, finishing with a -9 defensive runs saved between left- and right field. He hasn’t been much of a defensive asset throughout his career, so I’m not sure how much actually went wrong in the field.
Stats: .290/.338/.481/.818, 21 HR, 85 RBI, 134 H, 62 R, 120 OPS+, 1.6 WAR
Salary: $21.5 million
Game of the Year
July 1 against the Rockies. Kemp went 3-for-4 with a home run and four RBI. His home run came in the bottom of the eighth inning against Adam Ottavino. It gave the Dodgers a 5-4 lead in a game they would go onto win 6-4. Without that game, the Dodgers are playing in the Wild Card game and not Game 163 for the NL West title.
Kemp has one year and $21.5 million remaining on his original 8-year, $160 million deal. He has 12 years and 49 days of service time and was traded to the Cincinnati Reds Dec. 21.
Chad Moriyama said it best...
@TheRealMattKemp I will miss you ... again.— Chad Moriyama (@ChadMoriyama) December 22, 2018