Padres Editorial: Matt Kemp Is Not An All Star, Nor a Viable Trade Piece

Credit: UT San Diego

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Credit: UT San Diego
Credit: UT San Diego

At least not for anything of value.

Almost two months into the 2016 season, the results have been fairly predictive for the Padres thus far. A 17-25 record. At the bottom of the National League West. Attendance is down from last year. Really the same old story for the San Diego Padres.

However, with all that being said, things have been different in at least one regard. No I am not talking about the Padres uncannily poor injury luck to this point in the season. The biggest story in San Diego has been Matt Kemp.

In his first year with the Padres in 2015, Kemp got off to a really poor start. It took until June for Kemp to really get going and put together a somewhat respectable season. Based on his performance in years previous, slow starts and strong finishes weren’t really anything out of the norm for Kemp from his days with the Dodgers.

Despite his penchant for slow starts, Kemp has been better so far this season, at least on the surface. Kemp has quickly once again become a fan favorite, with some among the fan base even saying he’s worthy of all-star selection.

With all due respect to Matt Kemp, he’s not even close to being worthy of an all-star selection. He may be off to a much better start than last season, but the numbers don’t lie when it comes to his All Star worthiness. To better understand where Kemp is at so far this season, let’s take a look at his numbers to this point.

While the home run and RBI counts stand out, Kemp hasn’t been anywhere close to being an All Star caliber player. Among all qualified National League right fielders, 15 in total, Kemp is last in walk percentage, 9th in strikeout percentage, 10th in batting average, last in on base percentage, 8th in slugging percentage, 12th in wRC+, and 9th in WAR. Obviously some of these numbers are better than others, but you can’t argue Kemp is better than any of Bryce Harper, Giancarlo Stanton, Gregory Polanco, Stephen Piscotty, Hunter Pence, or even the struggling Jason Heyward. Among National League right fielders, there are much better options for the few All Star spots.

Beyond being talked about as an All Star caliber player, Kemp is also being talked about as some sort of useful trade piece. In this regard, I also could not disagree more.

Aside from citing home runs and RBIs as the most useful statistics, there is a lot wrong with this argument. While it’s true that Kemp is playing a lot better than we was at almost any point last season, including a pretty significant defensive improvement so far this season, it’s hard to believe any team would be crazy enough to take on his contract. With over $64 million still owed to Kemp following this season, not including the $21.5 million he is making this season, it’s hard to see any team giving up anything of value for that type of player on that type of contract.

At best, the Padres could hope to bring back at least some value if they pay down all, or at least a large portion, of the remainder of Kemp’s contract. If not, it’s hard to see any team giving up anything of real value for an aging player on an albatross contract. Add to that the glaring weaknesses in Kemp’s current game, weaknesses that will only become more substantial, and it’s hard to see Kemp being any sort of useful trade chip. The Padres may be able to find a sucker, but it’s not something I would count on.

At the end of the day, Matt Kemp has been better in 2016 than he was in 2015. However, even with those improvements, Kemp isn’t an All Star, or a valuable trade chip. We all know the kind of player Kemp is; the exact same one the Padres acquired in December of 2014. No amount of early season success is going to change that. And at this point, the Padres may just be stuck with Kemp for the long haul.

2 thoughts on “Padres Editorial: Matt Kemp Is Not An All Star, Nor a Viable Trade Piece

  1. Uh, if Kemp isn’t an all star, who is the Padres representative? Pomeranz or Rodney? I suspect on a good team, Kemp plays standout ball, but if he is the only viable MLB player on a terrible team he plays to that level.

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