The Braves and Dodgers completed a five-player trade on Saturday afternoon, with Los Angeles acquiring outfielder Matt Kemp in exchange for first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, left-handed pitcher Scott Kazmir, right-handed pitcher Brandon McCarthy, infielder Charlie Culberson, and cash considerations, per a club announcement Saturday. The Braves immediately designated Gonzalez for assignment.
Kemp is owed $43 million over the next two seasons, while Gonzalez, Kazmir, and McCarthy are set to earn a combined $51,523,810 in 2018. Therefore, with Kemp’s salary spread out over multiple years, the deal allows the Dodgers to get under the luxury tax threshold and reset their penalties heading into next offseason, which is set to feature one of the most highly-anticipated free-agent classes in years.
Meanwhile, with the Braves already having quite a bit of payroll flexibility heading into the trade, they’re able to take Kemp’s salary off the books for 2019, clearing up as much payroll space as possible in advance of next offseason, when they’re expected to complete their rebuild and attempt to become major competitors in the NL East once again. They also clear up a starting spot in the outfield for 19-year-old phenom Ronald Acuna, who is believed to be major-league ready.
It certainly seems possible that the 33-year-old Kemp could quickly end up getting designated for assignment just like Gonzalez, as Los Angeles already has quite a bit of outfield depth with Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson, Chris Taylor, Kiké Hernandez, Andrew Toles, and Alex Verdugo, among others. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic suggested Saturday that he’s likely to be traded or released. If Kemp sticks around, though, it should be interesting to see how he fares during his second tenure in L.A., where he previously made two All-Star teams, won two Silver Sluggers and two Gold Gloves, and led the league in home runs and RBI in 2011. While he’s a defensive liability and is unlikely to earn an everyday spot in the Dodgers’ outfield, Kemp posted a .781 OPS in 2017 and could still be a valuable contributor in Los Angeles as a platoon player or bat off the bench.
Kazmir and McCarthy could compete for spots in a Braves rotation that lacks a veteran presence. Atlanta’s two most experienced starters, Julio Teheran and Mike Foltynewicz, both struggled in 2017, and Max Fried was the only one of their pitching prospects that didn’t endure a bumpy adjustment to starting in the big leagues — Sean Newcomb, Luiz Gohara, Lucas Sims, Aaron Blair, and Matt Wisler all struggled at points when thrust into the big-league rotation.
McCarthy had his best season since being hit in the head by a line drive in 2012, posting a 3.98 ERA and 1.25 WHIP over 92.2 innings in 2017, so he should be a dependable middle-of-the-rotation arm in Atlanta as long as he stays healthy and his innings are properly managed. Kazmir, meanwhile, did not pitch in the majors in 2017 while dealing with a hip strain and diminished velocity, but he’s generally been a solid innings-eater when healthy and could be a potential back-of-the-rotation option for the Braves if he can get back on the mound.
Culberson, best known for his walk-off homer on the final day of the 2016 season and his standout performance in the 2017 NLCS and World Series, should be a solid utility infielder in Atlanta. He’s under club control and will be an affordable backup option behind Ozzie Albies, Dansby Swanson, and Johan Camargo.