Planning to get below the $197 million luxury tax threshold for the 2018 season so as to reset their penalties, the Los Angeles Dodgers reunited with Matt Kemp by completing a five-player trade with the Atlanta Braves.
Los Angeles received the veteran outfielder in exchange for Charlie Culberson, Adrian Gonzalez, Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy and cash considerations. The financially-motivated deal was beneficial to both clubs.
Though for Kemp, there was plenty of uncertainty with his future. Dodgers president of baseball operations informed Kemp the team likely planned to move him prior to the start of the 2018 season.
To little surprise, the Dodgers had difficulty finding a taker for Kemp, who was owed roughly $43 million over the next two seasons. He reported to Spring Training in improved shape and with a positive attitude.
Kemp had a positive showing and wound up being included on the Opening Day roster. The surprise developments grew from there, as he filled the void in the lineup while Justin Turner was recovering from a fractured left wrist.
Kemp not only emerged as a key contributor for the Dodgers, he slugged his way to an All-Star Game selection for the first time since 2012. His success story did begin to fade some as Kemp’s production waned in the second half and he became more of platoon player.
The 34-year-old nonetheless finished the season batting .290/.338/.481 with 21 home runs and 85 RBI over 146 games. The .818 slugging percentage was Kemp’s highest since 2009, and he was part of the Dodgers setting a franchise record with seven players to hit at least 20 home runs in a single season, and their combined mark of 235 as a team.
Kemp appeared in 13 postseason games, making five stars, and largely scuttling at the plate. He managed just four hits, including a double and home run, in 24 at-bats. The homer came in Kemp’s first career World Series game.
With the Dodgers getting off to a rough start this season, they were forced to make up plenty of ground in the National League West standings. The calendar flipped to September with the Dodgers one game back of first place and facing the Arizona Diamondbacks in the second of a four-game series.
Kemp electrified Dodger Stadium on Sept. 1 by clubbing a three-run homer off Archie Bradley in the eighth inning to give the Dodgers a decided 3-2 lead. He returned the following afternoon for another tilt with Bradley, and that time delivered a walk-off two-run double.
Another memorable moment for Kemp this season came when he drove his 1,000th career RBI and hit a home run on his 34th birthday in a win over the San Diego Padres.
Entering the final year of his contract, Kemp could be a casualty of the glut of outfielders the team has. Beyond that aspect, Kemp earning NL Comeback Player of the Year presumably puts the Dodgers in better position to complete a trade this winter than they were last year.