On Nov. 18, 2011, the Los Angeles Dodgers announced the signing of Matt Kemp to an eight-year, $160 million contract extension, which at the time represented the largest in National League history.
The Dodgers drafted Kemp in the sixth round in 2003 and he made his MLB debut in 2006. In the ensuing years, Kemp developed into one of the bright young stars in baseball, being named an All-Star twice in addition to winning two Gold Glove Awards and two Silver Sluggers in his first seven seasons with the Dodgers.
Kemp’s 2011 season was a memorable one, and that’s what led to then-general manager Ned Colletti signing him to the record-breaking extension. In 161 games that year, Kemp hit .324/.399/.586 with 33 doubles, 39 home runs, 115 runs scored, 126 RBI and 40 stolen bases.
Despite the strong all-around season, Kemp finished second in the NL MVP voting to Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun, who was later suspended for PED use.
While Kemp didn’t win the 2011 NL MVP, his future in Los Angeles appeared secure. That didn’t end up happening, of course, as Kemp dealt with a number of injuries in the years after signing the contract and president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman wound up trading him to the San Diego Padres after the 2014 season.
The Dodgers had to eat a portion of Kemp’s salary to trade him, but they wound up receiving Yasmani Grandal in the deal, and he was a solid starting catcher in Los Angeles for four seasons.
Kemp’s career seemed to be taking a turn for the worst as he played on mediocre teams with the Padres and Atlanta Braves from 2015-17. Then, perhaps the most shocking thing of his career happened after the 2017 season, as he was traded back to the Dodgers in a salary-motivated deal that sent Adrian Gonzalez, Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir and Charlie Culberson to Atlanta.
Friedman made it clear from the beginning that the trade was to save money and Kemp was not expected to put a Dodgers uniform back on. But when the team was unable to deal him elsewhere that offseason, he reported for Spring Training looking as healthy as ever and wound up winning the starting job in left field.
Kemp’s resurgence carried into the regular-season where he was named a starter in the All-Star Game for the NL and eventually won Comeback Player of the Year. He and the Dodgers made it to the World Series, although they were defeated by the Boston Red Sox in five games.
The following offseason, Kemp was traded once again in a salary-motivated deal that sent him, Yasiel Puig, Alex Wood and Kyle Farmer to the Cincinnati Reds. Kemp’s tenure in Cincinnati didn’t last long and he sat out most of the 2019 season.
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