In one of the more surprising trades this winter, the Los Angeles Dodgers reacquired Matt Kemp from the Atlanta Braves in a deal that saw Charlie Culberson, Adrian Gonzalez, Scott Kazmir and Brandon McCarthy head the other way.
In one fell swoop, the Dodgers were able to accomplish their biggest goal of the offseason of shedding enough salary to get beneath the $197 million luxury tax threshold.
For Kemp, he returned to the organization that selected him in the sixth round of the 2003 Draft — just three years removed from being dealt to the San Diego Padres in Andrew Friedman’s first significant trade as president of baseball operations of the Dodgers.
Now that he’s back in the fold, Friedman praised Kemp for his professionalism and is excited to see what he can contribute to the Dodgers, via Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:
“He’s excited about the challenge and we’re excited to watch him play,” Friedman said. “We’re going into it with a really open mind. He’s done everything we could have possibly asked and he’s fitting in real well. He really wants to do all he can to show us where he’s at physically. He’s obviously really gifted in the batter’s box but has slipped some, regressed some defensively in the recent past. The conversations we’ve had, his mindset is to show he’s the Gold Glove-caliber outfielder he was in the past.”
Kemp was one of the first position players to report to Spring Training and is confident he still has plenty of baseball left in him to help push the Dodgers over the top.
Longtime teammate Clayton Kershaw shared that same notion and believes Kemp could emerge as a big asset for the team, both in the lineup and on the field.
After an injury-plagued 2017 season with the Braves, Kemp responded by shedding 40 pounds this offseason to get back in shape. He now looks to compete for playing time in left field with the likes of Kiké Hernandez, Joc Pederson, Trayce Thompson, Andrew Toles and Alex Verdugo.