A look back at Padres’ acquisition of Matt Kemp, Preller’s first significant trade as GM

Credit: AP Photo

Credit: Getty Images

In A.J. Preller’s first significant move as general manager of the San Diego Padres, he acquired Matt Kemp from the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The first of many trades under the management of A.J. Preller made a big splash.

In December of 2014, the San Diego Padres acquired outfielder Matt Kemp from the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Padres also received catcher Tim Federowicz in the deal.

In return, the San Diego Padres sent catcher Yasmani Grandal, right-handed pitcher Joe Wieland and pitching prospect Zach Eflin to the Dodgers.

Matt Kemp used to be a superstar in Los Angeles. The outfielder finished second in the 2011 NL MVP. Although the two-time Silver Slugger is known more for his bat, he also won two Gold Gloves from his days in Dodger blue.

His first nine seasons in the big leagues were full of production for the native of Oklahoma. In that time, Kemp hit 182 home runs to go along with a .292 average and a .845 OPS. He terrorized the San Diego Padres, hitting 22 HRs to go along with a .302 batting average. A.J. Preller hoped some of this production carried over when he traded for him.

Unfortunately for Kemp, injuries plagued him late in his career. He only played 106 games in 2012 and 73 games in 2013. The right-handed hitter performed well in 150 games in 2014 for LA, so A.J. Preller decided to trade for him.

The Los Angeles Dodgers wanted to move Matt Kemp. Injuries concerned the front office, and they needed to open up a spot for prospect outfielder Joc Pederson. They found a match with an aggressive Preller who was in the midst of an overhaul of the Padres’ roster.

Kemp hit the ball well in his first year as a San Diego Padre. In 154 games, the outfielder hit 23 HRs, tallied 100 RBIs, and hit .265, totaling a 109 OPS+.

His fielding, however, lacked severely. A .972 FLD% on eight errors, -16 DRS, and 1.96 RF/9 innings all ranked amongst the worst in the MLB in 2015. Fortunately for Kemp, he gunned out ten baserunners keeping them honest on the base paths. He fared a little better defensively in 2016, but still below average. Kemp hosed eight baserunners, limited the errors to just two, only -6 DRS, but his RF/9 innings dropped to 1.88.

At the plate, Kemp remained consistent, putting up similar numbers in 2016 to what he did in his premiere year in San Diego. Despite the production at the plate and improvement in the field, general manager A.J. Preller decided to move on from Kemp late in the 2016 season.

When the San Diego Padres acquired Matt Kemp, they became financially responsible for $75 million of his four-year/$107 million contract. The team wanted to move on from the money owed Kemp, and there were also some clubhouse issues revolving around Kemp, which Preller wanted to remove from the young team.

The Padres traded Kemp and money to the Atlanta Braves for suspended hitter Hector Olivera before the 2016 trade deadline. Olivera never suited up for San Diego and is a mess in his own right.

The other player that the Padres acquired in the original Matt Kemp trade was Tim Federowicz. Federowicz played the entire 2015 season in the minor leagues for the Padres. He played five games A-ball for the Fort Wayne TinCaps, and 22 games in Triple-A for the El Paso Chihuahuas. Federowicz became a free agent following the 2015 season and signed with the Chicago Cubs.

Yasmani Grandal headlined the players the San Diego Padres sent to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Credit: Getty Images

Grandal impressed in his rookie campaign for the Padres. His 143 OPS+ as a catcher, along with finishing in ninth for FRAA-ADJ (framing runs against average adjusted) among all catchers. Grandal most notably became the first-ever player to hit a home run in his first two career at-bats from different sides of the plate.

Following an injury-riddled 2013, Grandal came back strong in 2014 as the primary catcher for the San Diego Padres. The Cuban switch-hitter finished in 14th for catchers in FRAA-ADJ (Rene Rivera finished in first that year, so the Padres had quite the catching duo) along with 15 HRs and a 111 OPS+.

Grandal quickly made a name for himself as a Los Angeles Dodger by making the All-Star team in 2015 and finishing in 22nd for the 2016 NL MVP. Grandal is considered a top catcher in the MLB and recently signed a four-year/$72 million contract with the Chicago White Sox.

The second player the Los Angeles Dodgers acquired was right-handed pitcher Joe Wieland. The big pitcher only started two games for L.A. in 2015 before being traded to the Seattle Mariners in 2016, which ended up being his final season in the majors.

The final player the Los Angeles Dodgers acquired is RHP prospect Zach Eflin. The San Diego Padres selected Eflin with the 33rd overall pick in the 2012 MLB draft. Eflin lasted a day in Los Angeles before being traded for shortstop Jimmy Rollins from the Philadelphia Phillies. Eflin’s production so far for the Phillies has been rather low. His best season, 2019, includes a 4.13 ERA in 163.1 innings.

While the San Diego Padres saw decent production from Kemp in 2015 and half of 2016, they are losers in this trade because this trade set them back financially. Yasmani Grandal became a star for a division rival, and that is also never a good thing. Preller attempted to make a splash, but remorse set in almost initially with this deal.

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Dominic Stearn on Twitter
Dominic Stearn
Dominic is currently a Sophomore at Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, studying Sports Journalism. He was formerly a Staff Writer for Pulse Magazine, writing about the Padres, the MLB, and the NFL. He also hosts the "Devils Talking Padres" podcast.

6 thoughts on “A look back at Padres’ acquisition of Matt Kemp, Preller’s first significant trade as GM

  1. I’ll start with… I’m NOT a Preller fan. I’m not an ownership fan either. I am a Padre fan and have been since they started in 1969.

    I’m not sure why Preller makes some of the moves he makes. As Diane stated… if we know things, he sure as hell should. I’m looking forward to these articles. I appreciate writers like yourself and Diane keeping us entertained with our Padre fixes.

    Fowler should keep his mouth shut publicly. The ownership group could have spent their money much better than they have allowed AJ to do. Could you imagine this team with an extra 45M to spend right now? Subtract Myers, Hosmer, and Profar… I’m certain we could do better for less!

    We have a good core of young players in our system. Not all will make it but many will. How we manage them, coach them, and bring them along will make or break us as a regularly contending ball club. We can’t buy a ring like NY, LA, or Boston. We need to spend wisely. AJ has not done that. I’ll give him credit for our farm system. If it wasn’t him, he’s got the correct people in place. Kudos for that.

    We are on the verge of possibly having a very special team. We still have way too many questions unanswered. France didn’t get enough opportunities last year to provide what we need to know. We need to get questions answered… not more added to the pile. Let’s not bring in the waived veterans to gain a few extra wins. Let’s get our questions answered.

    On the trade front, AJ would likely have been dismissed already with most other clubs. They overspend on players but won’t write off AJ’s remaining money on his contract. Move him to a lesser development/draft role and overpay him for that. Bring in someone who has a clue about current players… other than the ones he drafted or had previously.

    Donnie Downer wants more articles. They at least make us think and feel.

  2. Hi guys,
    I don’t consider this article to be “just another beating of a dead horse,” as you described it, Allan. The most important point about the trade for Matt Kemp is that the Dodgers were absolutely desperate to get rid of him, and the Padres did him a favor. If I, some random female in Encinitas, knew that, then the general manager of a Major League Baseball team sure as hell should have too.
    It’s also important to note the challenge of writing meaningful content when there are no games being played. It’s a perfect time to look back and explore trades, etc.
    Diane

    1. You made the best point, that the Dodgers were desperate to move him, but they knew they had Preller in a box. Even after the medicals about Kemp’s hips came out, and the Dodgers point blank refused to add money to the deal, Preller went ahead anyway. This is being oblivious to negative outcomes, or stubbornness beyond what is healthy.

  3. Hind site is always 20/20. Is this really a look back or just another beating of a dead horse?

    Opening day OF 2014 was Seth Smith, Wil Venable and Chris Denorfia. There were 4 rating of Padres prospects in 2014. Bleacher Report had Renfroe at #4 and Rymer Lariano at #6. MLB had Renfroe at #3, Lariano at #5, Franchy Cordero #9 and Michael Gettys #10. Fangraphs had Renfore at #7. SB Nation did a piece and tried to consolidate all the rating in one place and settled on the #4 for Renfroe and #6 for Lariano. Needless to say the best internal option AJ was handed was Hunter; who played just over a dozen games in 2016 and fell short of 500 AB in 2017. In 2017 Hunter was a below average OPS+ with a .284 OBP. The likelihood he would have been better 2 years earlier is not good.

    The FA class in 2014 offseason wasnt good either. The best OF names were Delmon Young, Logan Schafer and John Mayberry Jr. Looming with 1 yr from FA were Justin Upton and Jason Heyward. Both of which were already getting numbers for their new deals exceeding 100M dollars. Matt Kemp was coming off of his year 29 season where he had an OPS+ of 140 in 599 PAs in 150 games. The season before was 73 games cut short by injury and 2012 was an AS year for him. A chance for a legit OF bat with a change of scenery to anchor the rebuild. I guess the only thing I can really fault AJ for is not digging into Matt’s character and how much he would divide the clubhouse. It also didnt help Ole Pa Fowler airing Matt out in public every chance he got.

    This was Yasmani’s first full season coming off the PED suspension and strong rumblings of pitchers not wanting to throw to him. Add to it the Padres need to show they had developed a home grown prospect into an everyday big leaguer. Austin Hedges opportunity was upon them. Zac Eflin meant so much to LA, they flipped him for one yr of J Ro. Looking back at Padres pitching stats in 2016 (Eflins debut year in PHI) of the 6 starters that baseball reference shows, only Edwin Jackson had a lower ERA+ and that is with the vaunted staff of Pomeranz, Perdomo, Freidrich, Rea, Cashner and Jackson.

    I get its fashionable to bash on AJ and quite frankly i just dont get it. Mike Dee and Ron Fowler signed off on this deal and from all reports were to be keeping a very watchful eye on their new GM. I hate this deal more for AJ being known as the “rockstar GM” thank to Matt Kemp glossing him that after the 2014 all in. It didnt work and they moved on. I wuld much rather have this current group going after making this roster better and missing than sitting on their hands like Moorse, Alderson, Moorad eras did. For all the positive the Dodgers got with Yasmani, Kershaw never would throw to him until after AJ Ellis left. If he was the breakout star you claim he is, why didn’t LA resign him? Why didnt Mil resign him? Did you want the Padres to give him multiple years at 20M like the W Sox just did? umm pass.

    1. Hi Alan,

      I want to look back on all of the trades in the Preller era during this second offseason. This happens to be the first trade he made.

      I agree with you about the talent part. Preller has done a good job with getting talented players in the organization. I don’t think the Kemp trade was terrible, but you can’t deny the fact that the production they gave up exceeded the production received.

      About Grandal, he was a promising catcher both defensively and offensively. The Padres used his promise to acquire a former all-star who seemed to have some gas left in the tank. They were wrong, and that happens. Padres pitchers didn’t want to throw to him because they had Rene Rivera, who I highlighted was arguably the best catcher defensively in the league. Kershaw preferred Ellis because he had worked with him for several years and became comfortable with him. Kershaw’s ERA with Grandal: 2.23, below his career average. The Dodgers moved on from Grandal because they have Will Smith/Keibert Ruiz going forward. I don’t know why the Brewers moved on from him, but he got 4/72 M. He’s 31, so giving him 4 years is risky.

      People “bash” A.J. because very few of his moves have produced in the majors for the Padres. A lot of of his players he’s drafted are yet to make it here because of age, and that could definitely change the narrative. Being a G.M. is not easy. I wrote an article earlier this offseason about what I would do, and I got hammered for it. It’s very easy for the people who aren’t in their position to criticize them because we don’t know what’s going through his head when he makes the decisions, especially for a G.M., because you are only a “good” G.M. when you get a ring.

    2. The reason people hate the job Preller has done is because the team won 77 games in 2014, but have never been even that good since. His teams at the ML level have been terrible and boring. He’s been GM for 5 and 1/2 seasons. Let’s recall some of the reasons to hate his performance:
      1) Hiring Andy Green. Maybe a nice guy, but hopeless as a manager.
      2) Hiring Mark McGwire. As one of the few teams not overly stained by the steroid era, why on earth bring in the poster boy for lying about his steroid use? Plus he had a rep for alienating players in the clubhouse with his nutball intensity and self-righteousness. Should be banned from the game.
      3) The medical record scandal. Preller has been suspended twice for unethical conduct. If any of us pulled this kind of nonsense we’d be fired or in prison.
      4) The Kemp trade. Dealt with in the article.
      5) The Kimbrel/Upton trade. The Braves were asking a suckers-only price for Kimbrel. No other team would go anywhere near it. But Preller could not control himself.
      6) The Myers extension. A guy puts up one good half-season and Preller throws elite money at him. Absurd.
      7) Hosmer. One of the worst free agent signings of all time. No other team made a formal offer, but we still paid elite money to the ground ball king. Everyone knew this was a mistake, but not Preller. Totally jacked up the roster in ways we’re still dealing with, and the contract still has another 5 years plus 2020. This is a level of incompetence that really merits being fired, but alas we are also stuck with a pretty dumb ownership group, so…

      And these are just the highlights, or lowlights. Things may yet work out, but to date he has produced crap ML teams. That is why people hate on him.

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Dominic Stearn on Twitter
Dominic Stearn
Dominic is currently a Sophomore at Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, studying Sports Journalism. He was formerly a Staff Writer for Pulse Magazine, writing about the Padres, the MLB, and the NFL. He also hosts the "Devils Talking Padres" podcast.