After a seemingly constant flurry of moves throughout June and July, the Padres made yet another trade on Saturday afternoon. And this one could be A.J. Preller’s biggest and best yet.
After just over a year and a half of a failed experiment, the San Diego Padres are finally moving on from right fielder Matt Kemp. The Padres agreed to send the outfielder and the approximately $62 million left on his contract (which also includes the money remaining for this year as well) to the Atlanta Braves in return for Hector Olivera and the just over $28 million left on his contract.
In the deal, the Padres will end up saving around $30 million, as the $10.5 million being sent to the Braves is the same money the Dodgers were already slated to pay the Padres as a part of Kemp’s contract.
Despite absolutely no one thinking a deal like this was possible, A.J. Preller somehow got the job done while saving money in the process. The Padres will officially designate Olivera for assignment as soon as his suspension ends on August 2nd. The Padres will be on the hook for all of the $28 million left on his contract, but will save a significant chunk of money on Kemp’s contract to offset that cost.
Against all odds, A.J. Preller has made his single best trade to date. Getting out from under the Kemp contract not only allows the Padres some added financial flexibility going forward, but it also opens up yet another outfield spot for a young player.
While the initial news of the trade was met with a great deal of apprehension, especially given Hector Olivera and his domestic violence suspension, the Padres come out of this trade a lot better than they were before. Releasing Olivera is nothing but a formality now, and the Padres also no longer have to deal with the burdensome contract of Kemp for the next several years.
With the trades of Craig Kimbrel, James Shields, Melvin Upton, and Matt Kemp over the last year, the Padres have now freed themselves of every large financial commitment they had. As it stands, the largest financial commitment the Padres now have is what remains of the $9.625 million owed to Tyson Ross this season. Beyond that, no Padre is under contract past this season, with every remaining player either a free agent after this year or under some type of arbitration or team control through at least next season.
Some Padre fans may be upset. Upset that the Padres gave up their most prolific offensive player (although beyond the dated stats of home runs and RBI, Kemp lacked much of a profile). Upset that the guy brought in to be the face of the franchise is now gone. I am here to say don’t be. The Padres don’t need Matt Kemp. He needed the Padres more than they needed him.
As it presently stands, the Padres should be 100% focused on the future. Whether that’s 2018, 2019, or even 2020, Matt Kemp has no business being a part of that. In Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe, the Padres have ready-made replacements for the likes of Kemp and Melvin Upton. With all due respect to both those guys, neither needed to have a roster spot on the Padres any longer. The future is right around the corner, and those guys aren’t a part of it.
With just over two months remaining in the season, the Padres are going to be bad going forward. Nearly every decent to good player has been traded, and the Padres look to operate with a bare bones budget and roster for the remainder of the season. This may turn the casual fan away, but the die-hard should understand that this is absolutely necessary. The Padres need to get this bad in order to be good again in the future. The Matt Kemp trade may just be one of the final moves in getting the Padres where they need to be. All the excess money has been shed, and the kids are ready to come up and show what they are worth.
Home runs and RBI may make Matt Kemp look like the Padres best player, but he was far from that. Kemp was a fundamentally flawed player who was sub-replacement level for the Padres over the last 250+ games. He was no savior. He was no long-term building block. There’s no longer any justification for having a player like that on the roster, especially for a team with no designs of competing this year or even next year. As much as this trade may hurt the casual fan, and perhaps the Padres ticket sales, it was the last big move the Padres needed to make to put themselves in a position for long-term success. Now with one of the deepest farm systems in baseball, and a skeleton payroll at the big league level, the Padres can now finally say they are serious about competing. Success may still be a few years away, but the future is here. Be ready Padre fans.