What Does the Dodgers’ Trade Mean for the Padres?

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Are the Los Angeles Dodgers positioning themselves for a run at a big free agent, and what does that mean for the San Diego Padres?

On Friday, the Los Angeles Dodgers traded Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig and Alex Wood to the Cincinnati Reds. Kemp and Puig have made a habit of harassing Padres’ pitchers, so San Diego’s starting staff will hardly mourn the move.  Plus, there’s been bad blood between Padres players and Wood.

However, shedding those contracts may also make the rival up I-5 more likely to make a big move.  Kemp alone will be paid $21.5 million in 2019.  The Dodgers have taken on Homer Bailey’s $28 million in guaranteed money but already released him.   Despite his contract, the Dodgers have shed enough salary to give the team more wiggle room in trying to avoid the luxury tax threshold.

Kemp, of course, spent time in a Padres uniform during the 2015-16 seasons before being moved to the Atlanta Braves. When the Padres acquired Kemp, the team actually did the Dodgers a huge favor.    Los Angeles had been wanting to free up space in the outfield for rookies and had serious concerns about his declining defensive abilities, to say nothing of his attitude.  The only reason the 34-year-old Kemp landed back in Los Angeles this year was a salary dump that included another former Padre, Adrian Gonzalez.

As a Dodger, Kemp has been a menace at the plate against San Diego, batting a cumulative .305/.357/.491/.848. Ironically, playing for the Padres in 2015, he managed only a .262/.285/.489/.774 batting line.  Apparently, he did little to endear himself to his teammates in San Diego.  And, on his way out the door, he disrespected both his former teams by proclaiming that he’d “never really played in a baseball town before.”

The mercurial Yasiel Puig has also harassed Padres’ pitchers, batting a healthy .269/.357/.459/.816 in his career with Los Angeles.  Puig now leaves the only team he’s ever known.  He arrived in Los Angeles in 2012 after a harrowing escape from Cuba.  From the beginning, he drove Dodger coaches and managers nuts with his antics and uneven performance.  At 28 Puig has the raw talent to be a game changer if he can just develop some level of discipline.

As a coach for the Dodgers, Turner Ward had apparently helped smooth out some of Puig’s rougher edges. When he left L.A. to become the hitting coach for the Reds this offseason, Ward may have thought he could escape Puig’s hugs and kisses.  Instead, Puig will bring his act to Cincinnati.

Since Alex Wood accused Jose Pirela of stealing signs in June 2017, he has not been popular with Padres players or fans.  Wood threatened to hit Pirela, benches emptied, and both Andy Green and Dave Roberts ended up being ejected from the game.

Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth USA Today

This year, Wood moved to the bullpen in September and had probably become expendable thanks to the prospect of young studs like Walker Buehler and Julio Urias teaming up with veteran starters.  Although Wood held San Diego batters to a .213 average in his tenure with the Dodgers, they would probably prefer to face him than Buehler or Urias.  On May 4, the 23-year-old Buehler and three relievers pitched a collective no-hitter against the Padres in Monterey Mexico.  Overall this year, the rookie went 8-5 with a 2.62 ERA, 0.096 WHIP, and 151 strikeouts.  Last year the 20-year-old Urias had his season derailed by shoulder surgery in June. He returned to pitch in the postseason this year giving up only two runs in seven appearances.

Since the trade, rumors have circulated widely that the Dodgers will sign Bryce Harper, one of the two big names on the market.  The Dodgers apparently have no interest in reuniting with Manny Machado, who wore out his welcome after playing 66 games for LA last year.  Harper has indicated he would love to put on Dodger blue.

In his seven years with the Washington Nationals, Harper has batted .279/.388/.512/.900 with an average of 32 home runs and 91 RBI.  At 26 and in his prime, he boasts a 27.4 WAR and 139 OPS+ during that period. Pitchers for the Padres would hardly relish having to face him in 18 games rather than six.

Despite their wealth, the Dodgers remain very wary of paying the luxury tax and will maneuver to stay under the threshold of $206 million next year.  However, the specter of recent playoff heartbreak and a World Series Championship drought that has lasted 30 years could motivate the team to blow through the threshold.

In recent history, the Dodgers have owned the Padres, and this trade won’t change the dynamic despite the fact that Kemp, Puig, and Wood have performed well against San Diego. Unfortunately, the Dodgers have a deep, versatile lineup and a strong pitching staff.  The arrival of San Diego’s heralded rookies will begin this year, and we will start to learn whether they will provide the firepower needed to compete against the bully up the freeway.

5 thoughts on “What Does the Dodgers’ Trade Mean for the Padres?

  1. I certainly share your passion for both baseball and the Padres. You both make very interesting points especially about the challenge for teams not based in New York, Chicago or Los Angeles. About EVT though, we have a wide variety of opinions and regularly debate among ourselves. Obviously, the highly rated farm system gives us hope, but we all want to see real improvement especially when those players reach the major leagues.
    Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

  2. YES!!!!!! The Padres under Seidler, Fowler and AJ Preller are inept! They have made some terrible decisions and I fear that will continue until a more experienced and savy GM – like Dayton Moore is hired. Meaning it won’t be Preller selling a bridge to “God knows where.” To me, someone who has been a baseball fan for a long, long time; (I still have a ticket stub from the opening 1969 season on my wall) good team ownership and management along with $$$ will generally equal success. As a Padres fan – I’d be super happy to compete for a divisional title every 2 years without winning a World Series. I just want a good and well run team to watch. But there is NO way ANY team today can compete and beat the Yankees, Cubs, Dodgers and Red Sox on a annual basis. Can they do it for a couple of years like Kansas City? YES but not every year. Those big market teams are too well run and their extra big wallets and checkbooks allow them to buy immediate solutions for themselves while my team cannot do that. Look at what we are paying players today. When the Padres last went to the World Series in 1998, can you imagine the look on the face of Kevin Towers – truly a wonderful man and GM, if you had told him that in 20 years – 2018 – we’d see salaries of $20,000,000 or more on players all thru the game? That’s why I mention the NHL and NFL as better examples to follow. Yeah, the networks love to keep showing the Yankees, Cubs, Dodgers and Red Sox on TV but last I checked, we have 26 other baseball franchises in the US and Canada. The gap between the “haves” vs the “have nots” is getting wider and that’s NOT good for the long term growth and good of the game.

  3. Yep, Diane is the best writer of anyone connected with this site! I totally agree with Tanned Tom on his assessment.

    As for the Dodgers, isn’t it nice to have $$$ – lots of money? It covers up a lot of mistakes. And now that they have Andrew Friedman running things, they have “smarts” too. So how can you beat them? You can’t. MLB allows it’s big market teams to “buy” championships so the only way “smarts” beats “big $$$” is to break the players union and make baseball fair for all it’s teams. Need two examples? Watch the NFL and NHL. Each league has a salary cap – which protects ALL of it’s teams – ALL of the time. Sadly, we don’t have that in baseball. The Red Sox, Yankees, Dodgers and Cubs always have a loaded deck to play with. And unless one team just falls on it’s face because of bad management, none of those teams should ever have a down year. The Padres say they want to be like the Astros and Royals; be smart and build from the ground up. OK, it worked for both teams but how fast did the window then close on Kansas City? It’ll do the same with Houston shortly. Baseball is NOT healthy! Look at what is happening in Seattle and Cleveland, two teams cutting payroll. The Giants are in trouble too. But the best example to see is the financial mess in Arizona! But the big market teams? The window never closes because they spend as much as they want to stay on top. Luxury tax be damned, some fan bases like the Red Sox and Yankees just don’t care. And it’s NOT going to change under the present system!

    I would love to see a new era for baseball; a new commissioner – someone not hired by the owners; an individual who cares about the long term good of the game. Then I want to see a salary cap and floor so the game is fair for all the players, teams and fans. YES, the players union would fight it tooth and nail; for some odd reason, they think every major league player deserves to be a millionaire. Isn’t it nuts? Again, look at the NHL and NFL. It’s all about “smarts,” good drafting and astute management! We don’t have that in baseball. That’s why I’d love to see all the small/mid market MLB teams unite as one and tell the big market teams that enough is enough. Do that and fans in all the other cities we rarely read about; SD, Cinc, Detroit, Pitt, Baltimore, Minnesota, Milwaukee, Oakland, etc. can compete and be as good as the “big boys” all the time. Because let’s be honest; what’s the point of having a league of teams in MLB if only a few “rich teams” get to win most all the time?

    As for the Padres, is AJ Preller, the boy genius, still running things? Anyone who has read my posts knows how much I dislike that man. Are we about to see the last of Austin Hedges and Hunter Renfroe? I still don’t understand how smart people like Ron Fowler and Peter Seidler handed him the keys? If we could only “find” another Kevin Towers to right the ship….

    Happy New Year everyone!

    1. Gary, I certainly sympathize, but I don’t agree when it comes to smaller markets. Petco was built with public money, and the Padres are owned by billionaires. They are not disadvantaged, they are inept. And there is no inherent virtue to parity.
      As a fan of the sport, I want to see talent rewarded. If that means the Yankees, Red Sox, etc. stay top dogs, so be it. The Yankees are a terrifically run franchise, the Padres, not so much. It is not the responsibility of fans at Yankee Stadium or Dodger Stadium to subsidize cheapness or stupidity at Petco. It is not their fault we signed Hosmer. And some big market teams are messes too, Mets or White Sox anyone?
      As an analogy suppose I’m playing a basketball game of one-on-one against Steph Curry. Shouldn’t he win all the time? Or should the rules be rigged to allow me to win half the time?
      Any process that would allow me to win more than I deserved to would be perverting the game.

  4. Very nice article, Diane. It’s always a pleasure to read a writer who is not a homer, but an analyst who happens to root for SD. Your colleagues should take note.
    Since the Dodgers will be the team to beat in the NL West for the foreseeable future, it’s worth revisiting the Kemp trade. We dealt a future All Star catcher for a run down, rotten-attitude diva. And we knew about all his problems, his attitude, conditioning, injuries, etc. Yet when his medicals revealed his hip issues the Padres had the option to scuttle the trade. They asked the Dodgers to kick in more money, and LA refused. But instead of pulling the plug they went ahead anyway. Pure insanity.
    I’ve never understood how the front office can be so adept at scouting and drafting teenagers, but so clueless when it comes to roster construction at the ML level, paying no attention to defense, or who can play which position, or attitude. As another poster often notes, we are paying $25 mm next year for players NOT to play for SD. Not to mention the poorly spent money on Myers and Hosmer.
    And of course that Kemp trade is the gift that keeps on giving, as SD must pay another $16 mm over the next two seasons on Hector Olivera’s contract, which was the price of being rid of Kemp.

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