When A.J. Preller made his series of moves in the Winter of 2015, only one acquisition stands out in my mind as questionable then and now. Matt Kemp delivered the franchises first cycle and he did drive in 100 runs for a team that struggled to produce offensively. His second half production (just like 2014) saved his year. He is however a huge financial burden to a team that has many young options waiting for playing time.
The San Diego Padres dealt a lot of young prospects for Wil Myers in December of 2015. Trea Turner, Joe Ross and Jake Bauers could become legit major league talent, but Myers is still young enough to blossom into something special. To call this deal a flop for the Padres is not correct. At least not at this point. Only time will tell on this one. Myers’ wrist injury makes this deal a little upsetting for Padres fans, but at the age of 24, he could still be a great major league player.
The trade for Justin Upton was also steep in terms of the prospects the Padres dealt. Losing Mallex Smith and Max Fried for essentially a one year rental and a draft pick is costly. Still the possibility of a magical run last year was well worth the price tag. Upton was easily the best player on the team as far as consistency. The June draft pick might yield a decent prospect, so the trade cannot be deemed horrible just yet. All though both Smith and Fried have some decent upside for the long-term.
One could even argue the trade that sent Craig Kimbrel to the Padres on Easter Sunday last season was too a justifiable move. Sure Matt Wisler looks to be a decent pitching prospect, and yes Cameron Maybin had a decent year last year. The Padres did rid themselves of Carlos Quentin in the deal and they essentially gained four prospects (after trading Kimbrel to Boston) and got production from Melvin Upton Jr. in 2015. Sure his two years remaining are cumbersome, but if he can duplicate last year’s number, the Padres will be content.
Derek Norris was acquired from the Oakland Athletics for Jesse Hahn (who can’t stay healthy) and R.J. Alvarez. All of A.J. Preller’s moves made sense to me then and now, except for one. The team traded Yasmani Grandal, Zach Eflin and Joe Wieland to the division rival Los Angeles Dodgers for slugging outfielder Matt Kemp. Eflin was immediately flipped by the Dodgers to the Phillies for Jimmy Rollins. Ironically the Padres needed a shortstop all season long.
I scratched my head then as I do now. Kemp, Justin Upton and Wil Myers are essentially the same person. They are all corner power hitting outfielders who strike out too much. They also provide average defense at best on the field. All three men represent the three stages of a MLB players career. Myers is the young up and comer, Upton is the established hitter in his prime and Kemp is the established hitter beginning the twilight of his career.
The problems in acquiring all three was like mentioned before they are all the same type of hitter and most importantly they all are corner outfielders. Team defense struggled as Myers was expected to play center and the team had no success with consistency. Defense was undervalued by the first time G.M. Preller and the team struggled.
In the end Matt Kemp came to San Diego and became the face of the franchise. He is currently signed long-term and with his hefty deal he looks to be a Padre for the next four seasons. Or does he? Would it be possible for the Padres to move the slugger without having to pay the majority of his contract? That remains to be seen, but there have been several reports that the Padres have indeed explored the idea of dealing Matt Kemp.
The slugger gives the team a legit middle of the order presence. He is the leader in the clubhouse and can carry the team from time to time. His defense is a liability. It has been reported over and over again. His advanced defensive metric numbers are horrible and for a team that looks to build for the future, he is not needed. Still the Padres do value him. He is productive with the bat and gives the lineup a sense of legitimacy.
Matt Kemp would probably be very productive in an American League uniform. He could DH most of the time and play the field only when needed. That would help keep the sluggers legs fresh and also help stabilize him as a hitter. There are no obvious answers for moving Matt Kemp. Not very many teams can afford his salary nor have room for a player that commands to play all the time like Kemp does.
In reality Matt Kemp is not going anywhere any time soon. The Padres could only get pennies on the dollar for him and A.J. Preller is not the type to move a player while their value is down. If a young player like Hunter Renfroe steps up, don’t be surprised if the Padres consider moving Kemp at a discounted rate. Also if there is a key injury to some other teams outfield, don’t be surprised if the rumors start to swirl about a Matt Kemp deal.
The Padres are positioning themselves to become a relevant franchise. They are attempting to change the culture of the team and change the thought process that has doomed this club for decades. If they feel Matt Kemp is not a positive influence to the new style they plan to implement, then he will be moved. With the salary he commands per year, the team needs him to be a model citizen. Not an easy task for a player that seems to have drama follow him.
Kemp is a charismatic player. He is someone who interacts very well with the fans and can represent the team very well. His actions on the field can also be a joy to watch from time to time. The Padres front office hope that a rejuvenated and motivated Matt Kemp can help lead this new culture. If there are any doubts about him as a leader, he will be moved. The team cannot afford to let a superstar stunt the growth of the franchise.