Matt Kemp Returns to Dodgers

The Los Angeles Dodgers

The Los Angeles Dodgers announced Saturday that they have traded four players to the Atlanta Braves for outfielder Matt Kemp. Kemp has a long history with the Dodgers; he was drafted by the team in 2003 and spent 8 years as a Dodger before being traded to the San Diego Padres in 2014. According to his contract, Kemp is due to be paid $21.5 million for the next two years.

In return for Kemp, the Dodgers traded infielder Charlie Culberson, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, and pitchers Scott Kazmir and Brandon McCarthy. Reportedly, the Dodgers also paid more than $4 million to the Braves for Kemp. The deal is part of the Los Angeles team's larger push to trim their $240 million annual payroll, the largest in Major League Baseball. The Dodgers will reportedly save around $28 million through the deal. The team is currently taxed at a rate of 50% and hopes to achieve a lower tax rate next year by decreasing their payroll. Reportedly, they have paid almost $150 million dollars in luxury taxes since 2012.

Baseball insiders have speculated that Kemp might be traded again or released before opening day at Dodger Stadium. Currently, the Dodgers already have a full roster of outfielders that includes Andrew Toles, Kike Hernández, Yasiel Puig, Chris Taylor, and Joc Pederson. This leaves little room for an additional outfielder, especially one who struggled with a hamstring injury for half of the 2017 season. Now that Kemp has departed the Braves, their top prospect Ronald Acuna is expected to be called up from the minors to fill the opening in the outfield.

Kemp is not the only player involved in the deal whose future is in doubt. After being traded to the Braves, Adrian Gonzalez was designated for assignment and will be released. Plagued by a plethora of elbow and back problems, Gonzalez spent much of the 2017 season on the disabled list. His inclusion in the trade with Atlanta was unexpected as he had a full no-trade clause in his contract with the Dodgers. However, he agreed to waive the clause for the chance to become a free agent.

Pitchers Brandon McCarthy and Scott Kazmir have only one year left on their contracts. Like Gonzalez, the two veteran pitchers were hampered by health problems last season. However, the Braves' new general manager, Alex Anthopoulos, revealed that he added the pitchers to the team to supplement his younger starters and hopes that their considerable experience will help them last more innings.