Tag: Matt Kemp

Padres Still Have Time on Their Side for Turnaround, but It’s Dwindling Fast

The hype machine is out of service.

Disappointment has surpassed hope as the overwhelming emotion. 

A scapegoat has already been unfairly blamed because it was the easiest, most predictable target.

As the three-month mark of the season and the All-Star break creeps near, the San Diego Padres are running out of excuses, remedies and time. The offseason makeover that made the Padres a popular pick for the postseason and led star acquisition Matt Kemp to call general manager A.J. Preller “a GM rock star” just seems empty now, a rebuild lacking enough substance to take the club into the realm of sincere contender.

The franchise that had finished third or worse in each of the previous four seasons currently sits in fourth in the National League West, 6.5 games out of first place and six games out of a wild-card spot. Kemp, Justin Upton, James Shields, Wil Myers, Derek Norris and Craig Kimbrel were legitimate reasons for the hype, but through 75 games the Padres are five games below .500.

And a little more than a week ago, manager Bud Black paid the price for the underwhelming first half as Preller fired the longtime, respected skipper. Since then, the Padres are 3-7.

The offense, which was supposed to be dramatically better than it was last season, had a .241/.296/.371 slash line entering Thursday. Those numbers were all below league averages, as was its wOBA (.292) and wRC+ (88), although all these numbers were slightly better than in 2014.

Kemp has been the biggest letdown. After being about the best offensive player in the majors in the second half last season, he is having a brutal 2015 for his new team and was recently moved to the leadoff spot for the first time since 2010 in hopes of igniting his bat.

“Still have a lot of at-bats to go and a lot of things to do,” Kemp told Tyler Kepner of the New York Times this week. “I’m not worried, I’m not panicking.”

The pitching staff, which was supposed to be bolstered in the rotation by Shields and in the bullpen by Kimbrel, has also failed to live up to its billing. The rotation’s ERA, FIP and home run rates are all worse than league average, according to Fangraphs. And the bullpen suffers from all the same afflictions.

The overall defense is about the worst in the majors, and, as expected, the outfield defense is as well, Fangraphs numbers say.

Of the team’s next 15 games, 10 of them come on the road against the St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates and Texas Rangers

“The Padres a little over a week ago dismissed Bud Black as manager. Last 10 games: 3-7. The managerial change so far has not worked,” analyst Dan Plesac said on MLB Network on Thursday. “This is a team in transition right now, and I think they, along with the [Chicago] White Sox and [Seattle] Mariners, need to get something going prior to the All-Star break, because I think the All-Star break is when you find out if you’re for real or if you’re on the outside looking in.”

Time is still an ally for now. There are still 87 games to play, and the rest of the NL West has failed to drown the Padres in their wake. Injuries to the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants have prevented them from fully stepping on the gas, so the Padres are still breathing with more than half the season remaining.

Fan interest also remains. The Padres have drawn nearly 1.1 million fans this season, which is still in the bottom half of the league. But for the franchise, its attendance is up by more than 15 percent from last year, when it drew just over 27,000 fans a game. This season that total is more than 31,000 a game.

Talent-wise, few teams can boast what the Padres can. That is why the offseason was filled with promise. That is why fans are showing up. It is why the team’s record is such a source of news.

“We haven’t gone out there every day with high expectations since 2010, when we had a really good team and you just knew you were going to win every time you went to the ballpark,” Will Venable, the longest-tenured Padre, told Kepner. “We expect that with this group, too. We have some guys with some serious track records and a lot of success in this game.”

The hope is Kemp’s second half this year resembles his second half last year. It is that Andrew Cashner finds a way to start stranding more runners and giving up fewer homers. The hope is that Myers stays healthy enough to be a dynamic offensive player, and that Shields starts striking out hitters again and keeps the ball in the ballpark.

Their shortcomings have cost the Padres a manager. They have made San Diego one of the game’s biggest disappointments, and they have it looking up at three teams in a division in which it was expected to contend.

Time still holds hope for the flawed Padres to rebound. But the grasp is weakening by the day and by the loss.


All quotes, unless otherwise specified, have been acquired first-hand by Anthony Witrado. Follow Anthony on Twitter @awitrado and talk baseball here.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Makeovers Were the Rage This Offseason, and the Dodgers’ Was the Best in Show

For as wonderful as the World Series was, the three-and-a-half months that immediately followed were just as mesmerizing. 

Armed with new front offices, and/or money and/or a directive to get instantly better before spring training, several clubs aggressively went about this last offseason with a makeover in mind.

The hot stove season was a blur of wheeling, dealing and one blockbuster acquisition after another. It started before the winter meetings, punched into overdrive once they started in San Diego in early December and finished off with a record-setting contract for the top free agent on the market, Max Scherzer, the completion of a stunning franchise transformation with James Shields’ signing with the Padres, and a record signing bonus for an international free agent, Yoan Moncada.

But for all the impressive moves that went down last offseason, there was one renovation that will produce the best results in 2015 and well beyond. The Los Angeles Dodgers not only made moves to get better on the field for this coming season, but the men in charge of making them—president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, senior vice president of baseball ops Josh Byrnes and general manager Farhan Zaidi—were also part of the franchise makeover that will pay dividends on and off the diamond.

“We obviously traded away some very good players tonight,” Friedman told reporters at a late-night press conference after trading Matt Kemp to San Diego at the winter meetings, part of his nine trades in his first 25 days at the helm. “But we feel with the totality of the moves, we made ourselves a better team.”

Not all the moves were met with complete praise. Dealing Kemp was a shock to the fanbase and what the Dodgers had become over the last six seasons, but it was a necessary move to clear the logjam in the outfield and, according to the front office, improve the clubhouse dynamic.

The overhaul was done decisively and with specific goals in mind. Friedman and Co. wanted to gain future payroll flexibility, which they did by moving Kemp’s expensive, long-term contract and acquiring expiring contracts in Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick to go with the expiring contract of Juan Uribe. They also wanted to eliminate the elephant in the corner of the clubhouse, one that created tension at times and uneasiness at others.

Trading Kemp and allowing Hanley Ramirez to leave via free agency meant getting rid of two alpha male personalities, one who dominated one corner and another who dominated the complete opposite corner of the team’s recently remodeled clubhouse.

“That was the most eye-opening thing,” catcher A.J. Ellis told CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman a few weeks ago. “For people allegedly only concerned about computer printouts, they’re taking a serious look at the character of people and what kind of culture they’re creating here.”

There was an on-the-field mandate as well. The Kemp trade that brought in catcher Yasmani Grandal and made way for center field prospect Joc Pederson, along with the acquisitions of shortstop Rollins and second baseman Kendrick, was done with defense in mind, specifically improving it.

Those moves could give the Dodgers one of the best up-the-middle defenses in the National League, starting with Grandal, who is also a massive offensive upgrade from Ellis. Rollins and Kendrick are also significant defensive spikes in the middle infield over Ramirez and Dee Gordon, who the Dodgers traded to the Miami Marlins, which eventually turned into the deal for Kendrick. Pederson is regarded as the best defensive outfielder in the organization as well as being a 30-30 guy at Class AAA Albuquerque.

The front office also filled out the rotation with Brandon McCarthy, who they believe can be a premium No. 4 starter now that he is out of Arizona and using his entire repertoire of pitches, and they attempted to redo a bullpen that was the team’s Achilles’ heel last year.

Guggenheim Baseball Management, the ownership group that features president Stan Kasten and figurehead Magic Johnson, took the first sledgehammer swing this offseason, luring Friedman and removing former GM Ned Colletti. Friedman then brought in Byrnes and Zaidi, along with scouting director Billy Gasparino and farm director Gabe Kapler.

Those men then sledged their way into making a 94-win club and two-time defending division champion better. Between the foul lines and behind closed doors, the Dodgers found a way to improve themselves.

In a sport where there are guaranteed contracts and no salary cap, front offices matter to an infinite degree. And where they grab headlines from Oakland to San Diego to Chicago to Boston, the Dodgers might have assembled the best of the bunch.

So when star players on the current roster exceed their prime and are no longer the best of the best, the Dodgers have positioned themselves for continued success. Wise, experienced, analytical and ridiculously aggressive, this front office has made the Dodgers’ overhaul the best in baseball.

And it will make it the best going beyond next October. 


All quotes, unless otherwise specified, have been acquired firsthand by the author. Follow Anthony on Twitter @awitrado and talk baseball here.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Padres’ Offseason Overhaul Lacks Failing Stench of Recent Rebuilds

This isn’t our first rebuilding rodeo.

The baseball-loving world has been in this exact position heading into spring training many times before, anticipating a team with a massive overhaul only to watch said team fizzle mightily during the season. The stench of those failures still wafts in the air, and the 2015 San Diego Padres are trying to avoid it sticking to them. 

Padres general manager A.J. Preller took his position on Aug. 5 last year, and soon after the regular season ended and the hot stove started, Preller went to work on the game’s latest rebuild/reload/remake. The Padres are now a hot ticket in San Diego—they’ve already seen a 63 percent increase from secondary ticket sales at this time last year, according to Jeff Sanders of U-T San Diego—and the excitement is understandable.

Preller has added both legitimate and potential superstars to the roster, giving the Padres a realistic chance of earning their first playoff berth since 2008 in the tough National League West…on paper, at least.

“You can say we gambled on [Preller],” Padres managing owner Ron Fowler told U-T San Diego’s Nick Canepa. “We expected a lot of energy, a lot of excitement, and we got it—quicker than we thought.”

The challenge for this Padres revamp is finding different results than the failures we’ve seen in the recent past in Miami, Toronto and New York.

Rebuilds that did not rely on waiting for draft picks to develop into young superstars have been successful lately. The Boston Red Sox in 2013 are the most recent success story, as that project culminated in a World Series title. The 2009 New York Yankees won a title after adding Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Nick Swisher during the previous offseason, and the 1997 Florida Marlins also emptied the wallet in the offseason to end up with a ring.

But the failures are just as documented and certainly more salacious.

The 2012 Miami Marlins hired a charismatic and controversial manager in Ozzie Guillen, signed free agents Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell and traded for Carlos Zambrano. That experiment lasted all of three months before the club started trading off pieces during its first season in a new state-of-the-art stadium. The Marlins lost 93 games that year, fired Guillen and held a fire sale much the same way they did after winning the World Series in 1997.

The 2012 dismantling in Miami directly led to another quick rebuild, this time for the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Marlins finished their teardown in October of 2012 when they traded Reyes, Buehrle, Josh Johnson, John Buck and Emilio Bonifacio to the Jays. That deal, paired with the Jays’ blockbuster trade for reigning National League Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey, brought expectations in Toronto to an all-time high.

In 2013, the Blue Jays lost 88 games and finished in last place in the American League East. The Dickey trade, which cost Toronto catcher Travis d’Arnaud and pitcher Noah Syndergaard, now looks like a big loss.

The following offseason, the Yankees were livid at missing the playoffs and the Red Sox winning it all. Their 2013-14 offseason was an epic one, as they were intent on reloading their roster. The team spent $471 million on new additions, including Masahiro Tanaka, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran. The result was one fewer win than the season before and another missed October.

So how will the Padres be any different this summer?

For one, Preller completed this franchise face-lift by adding players like Matt Kemp, James Shields, Justin Upton, Wil Myers and Derek Norris, yet still managed to keep the team’s payroll at around $100 million, according to Sanders. That total cost is barely up from the team’s $90.6 million payroll last season, when it won 77 games.

Preller also added Shields and low-risk, high-reward guys like Brandon Morrow and Johnson to an already strong rotation. He made his moves without dismantling last year’s rotation or depleting the farm system.

Before a pitch is thrown this season, we can say the Padres have one of the best pitching staffs in the majors after adding to one that was already elite both in the rotation and in the bullpen. We couldn’t say the same thing about the Marlins, Blue Jays and Yankees of recent rebuilds.

That foundation can carry the Padres even if the offensive acquisitions don’t live up to the hype and if the defense fulfills its low expectations.

However, some still don’t see this latest experimental rebuild working. respected baseball writer Joel Sherman of the New York Post is one of these voices.

But something else must be remembered: The Padres did not blow up a competitive team, and none of the newcomers will oust incumbents who should be starting. Even if you don’t like everything Preller has done, you have to admit the Padres are better at every outfield position or in the rotation from where they were at the end of last season.

The Padres also did not necessarily set out to create this massive overhaul when the season ended. Opportunities presented themselves—Shields with his dwindling market and price tag would be one example—and Preller struck.

“Sitting there with [manager Bud Black] and the staff after the season, if you asked if we thought if there would be this kind of volume and activity, that wouldn’t have been the case,” Preller told Canepa. “But one thing led to the next.”

Now, the Padres’ offseason has led to wildly high expectations for this summer and fall. The way it unfolded, we should not be surprised if this club lives up to them.


All quotes, unless otherwise specified, have been acquired firsthand by Anthony Witrado. Follow Anthony on Twitter @awitrado and talk baseball here.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Biggest Winners and Losers from Dodgers Offseason

There’s less than three months remaining until Opening Day, and the Los Angeles Dodgers look decidedly different than they did at the beginning of the offseason.

For starters, the front office was stripped down and replaced with a new regime headed by president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and general manager Farhan Zaidi.

The metrics-minded duo wasted little time revamping the roster, trading away several popular players in an effort to improve the team in less noticeable ways while saving money and replenishing the farm system.

Los Angeles also saw other players walk away, either for a lucrative deal elsewhere in free agency or simply because they were no longer wanted.

It has been one of the busiest winters for the Dodgers in recent years, and there’s still time for more moves to be made before the regular season begins. For now, though, here are the winners and losers from the first three months of the team’s offseason.

Begin Slideshow

Will Padres’ Upton-Kemp-Myers Push to Win Now Pay off Big or Backfire?

If it wasn’t obvious before, it certainly is now: The San Diego Padres are going for it in 2015. Like, really going for it, so much so that they have acquired an entirely new starting outfield made up of Matt Kemp, Wil Myers and now Justin Upton—just in the past week.

The man behind all the manic maneuvers? New general manager A.J. Preller, who was hired only four months ago, in August, to try to revitalize a franchise that hasn’t had a winning season since 2010 and hasn’t made the playoffs since 2006.

“A month and a half into his first offseason as general manager, A.J. Preller has already introduced himself as one of the more aggressive front-office types in the game,” writes AJ Cassavell for Sports on Earth. “And one thing is very clear: He wants to win now.”

The Padres, suddenly and undoubtedly, are relevant again, thanks to all of these new big-name additions—Preller also traded for All-Star catcher Derek Norris from the Oakland Athletics on Thursday evening—but is this avalanche of activity going to work out?

Or could so much turnover in such a short period of time backfire on Preller and the Padres?

While there are questions to be answered and likely still more moves to be made, of this we can be sure: The Padres offense will be better in 2015. It almost has to be just by default, but now it’s going to be way, waaay better.

After all, San Diego scored just 535 runs last year—dead last in MLB by a wide margin—and the club’s aggregate triple-slash line was look-away hideous: .226/.292/.342.

To put that in context: Those first two triple-slash numbers rank among the very worst in baseball history since the end of the dead-ball era in 1920. That .226 batting average was 14th-worst in that span, and the .292 on-base percentage was 21st-worst.

All three of Kemp, Myers and Upton are right-handed power-hitters, which should provide a huge—and much-needed—boost.

But that doesn’t necessarily guarantee offensive success. Remember: The Padres still have to try to make contact with the baseball at hitter-hell Petco Park, which is death to righty swingers in particular. And all of the players Preller has brought aboard in the past week happen to hit from the right side.

“If you have an imbalance…you don’t want to flip it too far the other way,” Preller said recently via Dennis Lin of U-T San Diego. “I think ideal world is you leave [manager] Buddy (Black) with enough pitching and try to find a way to get a few more bats.”

Maybe San Diego’s lineup is too righty-heavy?

There’s also the fact that the club’s outfield defense could be a concern, as none of Kemp, Myers or Upton is more than an average defender, and they’ll have to cover an extremely spacious outfield, to boot.

Can Kemp’s reportedly arthritic hips handle center field? Or will the Padres play the younger, fresher Myers there? Or maybe San Diego will put Cameron Maybin to use by letting him patrol center with his athleticism and range, thus perhaps shifting Myers to first base?

It certainly could help if Myers, who has experience as a catcher and third baseman in the minors, could handle that position. Otherwise, the Padres appear for now to be stuck at first with injury-prone Yonder Alonso and his 27 career homers in 405 games.

While it seems that third base also could present a problem, madman Preller already has addressed that potential Yangervis Solarte-sized hole by swapping one of his recently acquired catchers for yet another righty slugger, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports:

That said, despite his power, Will Middlebrooks is far from a sure thing, having endured injuries and struggles at the plate the past two years, hitting just .213/.265/.364 in that time for the Boston Red Sox.

Then there’s the issue of what San Diego does at shortstop, currently manned by glove-only Clint Barmes.

In other words, despite the additions of Kemp, Myers, Norris and now Upton and Middlebrooks, Preller, it seems, isn’t finished. He can’t be.

After all, why stop now, when the roster is overstocked with excess outfielders who have to become bait for even more trades? Lookin’ at you, Rymer Liriano, Seth Smith, Will Venable and Carlos Quentin!

With Kemp and Myers both under team control through 2019, there’s no way the Padres can carry so many outfielders.

Look for Preller to spin at least a couple of those names above to obtain either a shortstop and/or some rotation depth after Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross, Ian Kennedy and the ever-injured duo of Josh Johnson and Brandon Morrow.

A former top prospect, Liriano could command a nice little return, and Smith’s team-friendly contract has drawn interest, according to Lin. Then again, Smith looks like the only capable lefty bat on the roster at the moment.

As for the Upton deal, it represents both a bigger push for 2015 and a bigger risk, because he is a free agent this time next year. The Padres could try to sign him long term, of course, but if not, at least they’ll get a compensation draft pick out of it in 2016.

Thanks to Preller, the Padres now have overtaken the Dodgers, Red Sox and Chicago White Sox as the most active team so far this offseason. And there’s almost certainly more to come out of—and more into—San Diego.

There still are holes to be filled and problems to be answered. Preller has work to do, trades to make and players to sign.

But the Padres are better now than they were a week ago, maybe even better enough to matter in the NL West—home to the presumptive favorite Dodgers and World Series defending San Francisco Giants—for the first time in years.

Before that judgment can be made, though, let’s see what else Preller has up his sleeves, which are firmly rolled up.


Statistics are accurate through the 2014 season and courtesy of MLB.com, Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.

To talk baseball or fantasy baseball, check in with me on Twitter: @JayCat11.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Reassessing the Dodgers’ Offseason Plan and Breaking Down What’s Next

It didn’t take long for the Los Angeles Dodgers‘ new front office to leave its mark on the city and franchise this offseason.

In a span of 24 hours during the recent winter meetings, President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman and general manager Farhan Zaidi orchestrated deals that saw the Dodgers plug a hole at shortstop, replace their All-Star second baseman and dump a former franchise cornerstone seemingly without a moment’s hesitation.

When the dust settled, it appeared Los Angeles had improved its roster in a variety of ways—albeit perhaps more subtly than usual. And if last week’s flurry was any indication, the new conductors of this Dodgers train surely have more up their sleeve between now and the start of spring training.


Advanced Metrics

The hiring of Friedman and Zaidi shortly after the Dodgers were eliminated early in October signaled a cultural shift within the organization.

Both staunch believers in the concept of advanced metrics, Friedman and Zaidi cultivated the practice in the small markets of Tampa Bay and Oakland, respectively, where a lack of financial flexibility called for shrewd, cost-effective baseball decisions.

In fact, Zaidi spent time working directly under Athletics general manager Billy Beane, who gained national recognition through Michael Lewis’ 2003 book, Moneyball, and the 2011 film of the same name.

When analyzing the metrics of the Dodgers roster they inherited from former general manager Ned Colletti, Friedman and Zaidi probably noticed that the defense could use some work. After all, there was a gaping hole at shortstop. Los Angeles chose not to re-sign Hanley Ramirez primarily because of his defensive shortcomings.

A common barometer used to value a player’s defense is a metric called defensive runs saved (DRS). Zero is considered average, 10 is great and minus-10 is poor. According to Fangraphs, Ramirez ranked 29th among all shortstops who played at least 500 innings at the position last season with minus-nine DRS.

When Ramirez commanded a contract that the Dodgers probably deemed too expensive given his age and declining defense, Friedman and Zaidi opted to go in a different direction. Rather than completely sacrifice offense by rolling the dice on a sure-handed, yet unproven, in-house option like Erisbel Arruebarrena, the Dodgers acquired Jimmy Rollins from the Philadelphia Phillies, per ESPN’s Buster Olney

Last season, Rollins ranked 10th in DRS among shortstops with at least 500 innings under their belt, per Fangraphs. He also produced a higher on-base percentage, four more home runs and 14 more stolen bases than Ramirez.

For a moment, it looked like Rollins and second baseman Dee Gordon were going to constitute the 2015 double-play combination for the Dodgers. But Los Angeles then traded their all-star infielder to the Miami Marlins in exchange for four prospects, per Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald.

The major haul for the Dodgers in the deal was Andrew Heaney, MLB.com’s top-ranked pitching prospect in all of baseball heading into 2014. Heaney didn’t stick around very long, though, as Los Angeles quickly flipped the southpaw across town in exchange for the Angels veteran second baseman Howie Kendrick.

Yes, the Dodgers gave up a dynamic game-changer in the speedy Gordon. But upon closer inspection, Kendrick’s .347 on-base percentage trumped Gordon’s in 2014. As the old saying goes, “You can’t steal first base.”

Moreover, Kendrick’s DRS ranked seventh among all second basemen with at least 500 innings played last season, per Fangraphs. Gordon’s minus-five DRS ranked 25th.


Saving Money

Although Friedman and Zaidi now have more money to work with than they ever could have dreamed of in Tampa and Oakland, the pair remains committed to their cost-effective approach to improving the team.

Financial flexibility was lacking within the Dodgers organization last season. Former general manager Ned Colletti shoulders some of the blame for that reality, as does the Guggenheim Baseball Management ownership group that gave Colletti permission to dole out massive player contracts in order to re-establish the Dodgers’ brand following the tumultuous Frank McCourt era.

Los Angeles’ Opening Day payroll in 2014 came out to $229.3 million, the highest in the majors.

Regarding the 30-year-old Ramirez, the Dodgers were simply not willing to give him anything close to the $88 million over four years that he received from the Boston Red Sox last month.

The Dodgers’ top prospect, Corey Seager, plays shortstop but by all accounts, will not be ready for full-time MLB service until 2016. That’s why Los Angeles nabbed Rollins, a player whose contract comes off the books following the 2015 season but someone who should make for a quality stopgap next year.

One of the loftiest contracts that Colletti handed out was the eight-year, $160-million commitment to Matt Kemp. Not only did the outfielder miss most of 2012 and 2013 due to various injuries, those same injuries had seemingly sapped Kemp of his defensive capability. According to FangraphsKemp registered a minus-23 in DRS, the worst among qualifying MLB outfielders in 2014.

Kemp’s hefty contract and poor defensive metrics contradicted two of the central ideals that Friedman and Zaidi champion.

It’s why Kemp was a prime piece to be moved in a trade, and that’s exactly what the Dodgers did when they sent him to the San Diego Padres in exchange for catcher Yasmani Grandal, pitcher Joe Wieland and pitching prospect Zach Eflin, per Kirk Kenney and Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

It also helped that Kemp’s value was higher than it had been in three years because of his resurgent second half at the plate in 2014.

Los Angeles agreed to eat $32 million of the $107 million remaining on Kemp’s contract, thereby immediately freeing up $75 million while reducing the well-documented outfield logjam at Dodger Stadium.

For good measure, the Dodgers recently agreed to deals with starting pitchers Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson, per Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports and ESPN’s Buster Olney. The common denominator between McCarthy and Anderson—besides being Twitter-savvy—is that they are both former Athletics and thus catch the eye of Zaidi.

While it can be argued that McCarthy’s four-year $48-million contract is excessive for a pitcher with a career 4.09 ERA, Friedman and Zaidi may be looking a little deeper. Sure, McCarthy’s most recent work was a stellar second half of 2014 with the Yankees. Even that might be an anomaly, though. Historically, McCarthy has struggled in hitter-friendly parks like Yankee Stadium.

But what about spacious parks like Dodger Stadium?

A reasonable comparison is O.co Coliseum, home of the A’s. McCarthy’s ERA during his two seasons with Oakland was lower than it has been with any other team throughout his nine-year career. As a No. 4 starter in Los Angeles, there will also be less pressure on McCarthy. Plus he will be working with one of the game’s best pitching coaches in Rick Honeycutt.

Anderson’s $10 million deal is incentive-laden due to his extensive injury history. But Pedro Moura of the Orange County Register points out an interesting piece of information that gives this signing the potential to be another cost-saving steal for the Dodgers in today’s high-stakes pitching market:

Although there is major injury risk associated with Anderson, Los Angeles appears confident the can provide better upside than Dan Haren, who was shipped to Miami in the Gordon deal.


What’s Next?

Whenever a team pulls off six transactions involving 17 players in a matter of two days, it’s probably a good bet that more moves are on the way.

The Dodgers certainly addressed some issues—filling out the back end of the starting rotation, finding a replacement at shortstop and replenishing the farm system—but what’s to say these recent acquisitions will even make it to spring training wearing Dodger blue?

Just ask Andrew Heaney or Stan Kasten.

The Dodgers president recently shared similar sentiments with Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register:

I’ve always said to my GMs, the roster you have in December or January is not the roster you’ll need or want or have in August or September or October. They’re always going to be needs that arise, holes that have to be filled, adjustments or improvements that you need to make. So whatever you do, don’t ever think you’re finished.

One option that has been dangled around the league and whose name always seems linked to the Dodgers is Cole Hamels. The veteran Phillies southpaw will turn 31 later this month and is owed $94 million over the next four years.

With statistically comparable pitchers Max Scherzer and James Shields set to rake in contracts north of $100 million, Friedman and Zaidi might view Hamels as a bargain, and they’ve clearly shown how much they like a good bargain.

The additions of McCarthy and Anderson would seemingly take Los Angeles out of the Hamels sweepstakes, but if the Dodgers are willing to dump a resurgent fan favorite in Kemp, there’s no telling what the team might do if it means a better chance at reeling in a pitcher like Hamels.

Stay tuned.


All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise linked/noted.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Grading the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Offseason Post-Winter Meetings


No, seriously. A+. Catcher has been upgraded, shortstop has been upgraded, second base has been upgraded, depth has been added, and essentially all it cost was Matt Kemp and a left-handed pitching prospect named Tom Windle.

I will break down each move individually below, but the main takeaway for Dodger fans should be relief. The joy of having a competent front office is not a feeling Dodger fans have had much recent experience with. But Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi proved their worth in a crazy 12-hour period.

A quick recap:

IN: SS Jimmy Rollins, 2B Howie Kendrick, C Yasmani Grandal, RHP Brandon McCarthy, RHP Joe Wieland, RHP Chris Hatcher, assorted minor leaguers

OUT: 2B Dee Gordon, RF Matt Kemp, RHP Dan Haren, SS Miguel Rojas, LHP Tom Windle, C Tim Federowicz

Got all that? Great, because it gets more confusing. The Phillies trade and the Padres trade are interconnected; according to CSNPhilly.com, the players going to Philadelphia for Rollins are reportedly minor leaguers Tom Windle and Zach Eflin. While that seems simple, Eflin is coming from San Diego in the Kemp trade—which has not actually been finalized yet because physicals are still pending. And each of Kemp (shoulder and hamstring), Wieland (elbow) and Grandal (knee) has significant injury concerns, so the physicals are not a formality.

The Marlin and Angel deals are finalized, so at least there’s no mystery. Additionally, the Brandon McCarthy deal appears to be done as well, according to ESPN Los Angeles’ Mark Saxon.

Notes: The following recaps will assume all mentioned trades will be successfully completed. All advanced statistics courtesy of FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.



This trade is the simplest. Per ESPN, the Dodgers traded Dee Gordon, Dan Haren and Miguel Rojas and received LHP Andrew Heaney, RHP Chris Hatcher, IF Enrique Hernandez and C Austin Barnes.

Hatcher has thrown 89.2 career innings in the major leagues, and he has seen mixed success. His 4.82 ERA is uninspiring, but his 3.56 FIP and 3.51 xFIP tell us that he is better than that number. He could very well turn into a competent part of the bullpen.

Barnes and Hernandez are minor leaguers. They are quality organizational depth, and acquiring such players is a skill that former general manager Ned Colletti appeared to lack.

Heaney was subsequently flipped to the Angels.

In terms of the players the Dodgers gave up, Gordon is the only potential loss. Rojas was a competent defense-first backup, but he is replaceable. In fact, Erisbel Arruebarrena is still on the roster, and he can be what Rojas was. Haren was not good last year: He posted a 4.02 ERA despite getting help from a .276 BABIP.

Gordon is the question mark. A more detailed analysis can be found here, but essentially Gordon has half a season of good performance and about 250 games of below-average performance. It’s entirely within the realm of possibility that his first half of 2014 was his real performance and he simply suffered through a slump in August and September. I, however, would bet on his overall career numbers being more indicative of the future than a three-month hot streak.


The Dodgers traded Andrew Heaney to the Angels for Howie Kendrick, per Mark Saxon of ESPN. It is unclear whether or not this was a three-team trade or if the Dodgers had the option to keep Heaney, but regardless, they acquired a significant upgrade at second base.

Howie Kendrick is a legitimately good hitter. Since getting a full-time job in 2009, he has had just one below-average offensive year (a 98 wRC+ in 2010). Additionally, 2010 was also his only negative defensive year. That type of production from a middle-infield spot is extremely valuable.



This tweet from Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly (h/t Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal) started the 12-hour saga, and it signaled the arrival of the Dodgers’ 2015 shortstop. Rollins is not the MVP candidate he was several years ago, but he is still a valuable shortstop. His 103 wRC+ from 2011, 101 from 2012, and and 102 from 2014 demonstrate that he can still hit, and he actually continues to post positive defensive numbers as well.

By far the most amazing part of this trade is that the Dodgers essentially gave up nothing. Zach Eflin was not a member of the Dodger organization before yesterday, and Tom Windle is a lefty from High-A who may end up in the bullpen.


Matt Kemp being traded, as reported by ESPN, is the most controversial deal the Dodgers made yesterday. He is a fan favorite and also the most talented of the potential trade options (Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford), but that talent meant that he was most likely to bring back a significant return. Of course, he is also not a guarantee to continue to perform.

The optimism surrounding him is related to his second half. After the All-Star break last season, Kemp posted a 170 wRC+, which would have been the best mark in the league if he had continued it for the whole year. The problem, however, is that there’s no guarantee that Kemp would be that good in the future. In fact, he’d probably be closer to his career mark of 128.

Additionally, though, none of this analysis factors in age, defense or contract. Kemp is already 30 years old and thus past his peak, so his performance is likely to decline as he gets older. His defense is bad: He has been a positive defender just once in his career (2009), and the last two years are two of his worst years. Plus, as he moves to right field, he will lose any value he gained simply from being in center field.

Finally, his contract status cannot be ignored. He was owed over $100 million over the next five years, so even with the $32 million the Dodgers are sending to San Diego, the Dodgers make immense savings (about $70 million).

The players the Dodgers are receiving are not scrubs, either. Wieland does not have much of a major league track record, but he has a career 3.27 minor league ERA.

Grandal, though, is the centerpiece. The switch-hitting catcher will likely split time with AJ Ellis, but he is probably a better player. He has put up a wRC+ over 100 (league average) each season, and his career mark is 119. This compares favorably to AJ Ellis’ mark of 98. His defense is also an improvement, though. It surely has not escaped this front office’s attention that Ellis ranked 99th out of 100 eligible catchers in pitch framing last year, while Grandal ranked 13th.


Brandon McCarthy

A free agent, McCarthy signed a four-year, $48 million contract, per Mark Saxon of ESPN. He has actually been quite good over the course of his career—as long as he can stay healthy, that is. He has not posted a FIP over 4.00 since 2009, and he has posted the best strikeout-to-walk ratios of his career over those same last four years. The problem, though, is that 2014 was the only year of his career that he made more than 25 starts.

McCarthy represents a significant upgrade over Dan Haren, whom he is likely replacing. He is also a health risk, but when he’s on the mound, he’s a competent back-of-the-rotation starter.

Thus, overall, the Dodgers’ winter meetings cannot be deemed anything but a massive success. They upgraded at three different positions and added some minor league depth while shedding roughly $70 million of payroll obligations for the next five years.


Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs.

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MLB Trade Rumors: Latest Winter Meeting Talks on Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, More

The start of the MLB season is still months away, but rumors surrounding some of the biggest stars are already getting chaotic. No player is safe during the winter meetings, including some of the most notable names for franchises.

Two of the most heralded players on the market are Matt Kemp and Justin Upton. The two sluggers have lit up the West Coast and East Coast, respectively, and might be on the move during the offseason.

Whether it’s during the winter meetings or after, myriad players will be relocating ahead of the 2015 season. Here’s a look at the latest rumors coming out of San Diego.


Matt Kemp

Even a great end to the 2014 season hasn’t saved Kemp from being involved in trade rumors.

The two-time All-Star outfielder was riddled with injuries during 2013, but he bounced back last year with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Finishing at .287/.346/.506 with 25 home runs and 89 RBI, Kemp has become a hot commodity.

While several teams were initially looking to land the power hitter, just one remains in the hunt. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com and Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported the latest on the San Diego Padres’ interest in Kemp:

If there’s one thing the Padres lineup lacks, it’s pop. Kemp would immediately bring that to the middle of the order. In fact, he had more homers last season (25) than the entire projected outfield for San Diego of Seth Smith, Will Venable and Carlos Quentin (24).

Making this trade also seems like a win-win for L.A. as well with a loaded outfield already in Yasiel Puig, Carl Crawford and Andre Either. It also leaves a spot for Joc Pederson, who finished last season with 33 homers with Triple-A Albuquerque.

If the Dodgers get an impressive package back, they would have even more assets to add to Pederson. For the Padres, the franchise would be able to insert a key bat into the lineup and add a superstar—who is still only 30 years old—to the roster.


Justin Upton

Jason Heyward might not be the only notable name leaving the Atlanta Braves this offseason. Upton’s name has been in rumors for a while now, but it appears talks are heating up at the winter meetings.

However, the haul that the Braves received for Heyward might not be matched by other teams interested in Upton. Heyman, who’s been a busy man during the meetings, has the latest on Upton:

The Braves believe they should get more for Justin Upton than they got from the Cardinals for Jason Heyward.

Rival executives agree with that. Upton, due to better power and overall offense, is worth more than Heyward.

But here’s the problem: Executives also believe the Braves got too much for Heyward, a defensive specialist whose offensive numbers are declining a bit. They see young pitcher Shelby Miller as an overpay, so no one wants to do better than that yet.

Heyman goes on to mention that the Seattle Mariners were reluctant to trade Taijuan Walker, who might be a comparable asset for Upton. Given the slugger’s talent, getting a great prospect in return seems like the only way he’s leaving Atlanta.

After hitting 29 homers and 102 RBI last year, the Braves should get a huge return for him on the market. However, finding a partner willing to pull the trigger might make this deal wait until desperation sets in ahead of the trade deadline.


Marlon Byrd

On a slightly smaller scale, Marlon Byrd has put up similar numbers to both of the previously mentioned players. Being with the Philadelphia Phillies, however, has kept him out of the spotlight recently.

With the Phillies potentially looking to trade quite a few assets, Byrd has been a popular name. Rosenthal passes along the latest on Byrd’s likely destination if he’s moved:

When looking at the numbers, Byrd had a great season last year with a .264 average, 25 homers and 85 RBI. However, being 37 years old might cause some drawback for teams looking to build a franchise for the future.

For a team like the Baltimore Orioles, they have a huge hole to fill after losing both Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz to free agency. Landing in Baltimore seems like a perfect fit, but there are several other contending teams that might inquire about the slugger.


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Matt Kemp Is Key High-Risk, High-Reward Trade in Weakened Hitting Market

Trading for Matt Kemp shouldn’t feel like an equivalent to hitting on 17 in blackjack. And yet, there are a few good reasons for why it does.

We’ll get to that. But first, we should clarify that it is sounding more and more like the Los Angeles Dodgers are going to trade Kemp this winter.

When the winter began, it seemed far more likely the Dodgers would resolve their outfield logjam by trading Carl Crawford or Andre Ethier rather than Kemp. After all, why would they rush to deal a guy who posted an .852 OPS with 25 home runs in 2014?

But then Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported in November that the interest in Kemp was too serious for the Dodgers to ignore. More recently, he wrote about how “a lot of time sure seems to be spent on finding a suitor,” indicating the Dodgers have gone beyond mere due diligence.

One is left with the sense that the sheer demand for Kemp has pushed the Dodgers into “no choice” territory. That really isn‘t hard to believe given the current state of MLB and its offseason market. Everyone needs bats, and there aren’t many readily available.

A month ago, the likes of Pablo Sandoval, Hanley Ramirez, Russell Martin, Victor Martinez, Yasmany Tomas, Nelson Cruz, Billy Butler, Adam LaRoche and Michael Cuddyer were looking for work. Now they’re all spoken for and the open market has few, if any, impact bats left.

Kemp’s most recent offensive performance is certainly one reason why he’s attracting so much trade attention. The other is that, unlike fellow high-end trade chip Justin Upton, Kemp comes with controllability. His contract runs through 2019.

True, Kemp’s deal also still owes him $107 million. But a team that deals for him may be able to convince the Dodgers to eat some of that, and Grantland’s Ben Lindbergh argued that even $107 million “isn’t much more than he’d make as a free agent.”

So all told, here’s the situation: Kemp seems to be legitimately available, teams have a darn good reason to be interested in him and his contract isn‘t a deal-breaker.

But while that’s a solid recipe for a deal, it doesn’t mean a trade for Kemp wouldn’t come with risk. 

There’s the obvious reality that dealing for him would cost a team more than just money, as the Dodgers likely won’t be parting with Kemp unless they get either established or MLB-ready talent.

Beyond that, there’s the betting nature of a potential deal for Kemp. It would mean betting heavy on his bat, but also betting against his age, durability, defense and speed.

Let’s start with the age question mark, which is certainly a question mark knowing that Kemp is 30. Depending on who you ask, he’s either reached the peak age for modern hitters or is already past it.

In 2010, J.C. Bradbury did a study for Baseball Prospectus that concluded “the peak age of baseball players appears to be around 29, and possibly 30 for hitters in modern times.” But more recently, Jeff Zimmerman did a study for FanGraphs last winter that found modern hitters are peaking well before 30.

So yeah, whoever’s looking to deal for Kemp can’t plan on actually getting five good years out of him. If he’s not already past his prime, his prime may only have one or two good years left.

That’s if he stays healthy, of course, and anyone who knows about Kemp’s injury history will know that’s a pretty big if. 

Before playing in 150 games in 2014, Kemp managed only 179 games across 2012 and 2013 thanks mainly to hamstring, ankle and shoulder injuries. The latter two injuries needed to be repaired with fairly serious surgeries. Knowing this, he’s not likely to defy the aforementioned studies and age gracefully.

Beyond the age and injury concerns, meanwhile, is the concern that Kemp isn‘t a well-rounded player anymore.

Going forward, Kemp’s overall value is more than likely going to be limited by his defense. That’s partially because he’s been relocated from center field to right field and partially because he’s simply not a good defensive player. The FanGraphs figures to your left make that abundantly clear.

Also, Kemp has lost a step. After peaking with 40 steals in 2011, he managed only eight in 2014. Here’s FanGraphs‘ Mike Petriello to explain how this is no mirage:

We have speed stats on the site, anyway, and they paint a clear picture:

2009: 7.0
2010: 5.5
2011: 6.2
2012: 5.0
2013: 4.9
2014: 4.2

None of which is unexpected. You get older, you overcome serious leg injuries, you get slower…

Remember that point about how the money remaining on Kemp’s deal is basically market value?

That remains true, but all of the above is a reminder that market value isn‘t always “good” value. With the kind of serious red flags he has, there’s a very good chance Kemp isn‘t going to be worth a lot of money over the next five years, much less a lot of money and valuable talent in a trade.

Here’s guessing that the teams in on Kemp are aware of this to some degree or another. If so, that there’s still so much interest in him could indicate they think his bat is a reward that justifies the risk.

To this end, there’s room for more skepticism. But fortunately, there’s even more room for optimism.

When we speak of the great offensive season Kemp just had, what we’re really talking about is the great offensive second half he just had.

Though Kemp logged 69 fewer plate appearances, he still upped his home run total from eight in the first half to 17 in the second half. More impressively, he upped his OPS over 200 points from .760 to .971.

Because a whole lot of extra success happened in a smaller time frame, Kemp’s second half is fodder for the ol‘ “Yeah, but small sample size” argument. How do we know Kemp actually figured things out?

Oh, you know. Because we know for a fact that Kemp’s surge didn’t happen by accident.

Before Kemp got red hot in the second half, he first had to make some mechanical adjustments. To go back to a quote I’m about to reference for the umpteenth time, here’s Dodgers assistant hitting coach John Valentin explaining said adjustments to Pedro Moura of the Orange County Register in July:

“He actually has straightened his stance. It used to be locked. What that created was a difficulty to have the freedom to stay through the baseball. This offers a clear path to hit balls in and away.”

For a visual representation of what Valentin was talking about, I suggest checking out an article by Alec Dopp at GammonsDaily.com. But with a little help from BaseballSavant.com, we can see that Valentin was dead-on about how Kemp benefited from his adjustments:

That’s what it looks like when lesser plate coverage becomes superior plate coverage.

And the sight is especially encouraging in this case. Because extreme plate coverage was arguably Kemp’s most impressive talent while he was racking up a .954 OPS between 2011 and 2012, it seems his old offensive self has well and truly returned.

That’s a hell of a counterargument for Kemp’s assorted red flags. Trading for him may mean paying a heavy price for a guy who’s older, brittle, a poor defender and slow, but it also means trading for a guy who right now is one of the game’s best hitters.

A player like that could transform a good team into a great team or a great team into a World Series favorite. And though I’m not sold that Kemp could turn a lowly team like the San Diego Padres into contenders on his own, he’d at least help make them respectable.

It sounds like somebody will be trading for Kemp. Whoever that somebody is would be rolling the dice on a volatile player. Of that, there is no doubt.

But since that somebody would also be rolling the dice on an elite bat at a time when elite bats are scarce in more ways than one, let’s just say the word “crazy” wouldn’t need a new definition in the dictionary.


Note: Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted/linked.  

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Matt Kemp Will Be the Prize at the Offense-Starved Winter Meetings

Prizes are only as valuable as the people who covet them.

That is why the first month-plus of Major League Baseball’s offseason has been a slugfest for those who slug. Like wild and crazy Black Friday shoppers looking for the season’s hottest toy in a snug department-store aisle, baseball executives are doing all they can to lure the winter’s best bats.

The last three weeks have seen teams overpay for aging hitters, some of which can’t play the field, while the market for pitchers has been slow-played as seemingly everyone waits for ace Jon Lester to make a decision. But even for the few teams who miss on Lester, plenty of pitching options await on the free-agent and trade markets.

Again, a prize is more valuable when it’s scarce.

While Lester and other pitchers might have more action surrounding their names by the time the MLB Winter Meetings conclude—they start Sunday and end Thursday—the prize of the event will be an elite hitter. And since many of those have been taken off the board, Matt Kemp, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ new cleanup hitter, is left as the market’s top target.

The best hitters on the free-agent market are gone: Victor Martinez, Hanley Ramirez, Nelson Cruz, Pablo Sandoval, Yasmany Tomas, Torii Hunter, Russell Martin, Adam LaRoche and Nick Markakis. All of those guys, some of whom are considered coveted hitters only due to the game’s current offensive state, are off the board, leaving almost no impact bats remaining on the open market.

Teams still looking for significant offensive additions now have to turn to the trade market. While a guy like Justin Upton is available for an expensive return, he has just one year remaining before he is likely to tango with his first winter of free agency in 2015. The same can be said for Boston’s Yoenis Cespedes, now part of an outfield glut similar to the one in Los Angeles that makes Kemp available.

The Dodgers know they hold the prized option, and that is why they are holding firm on their asking price for Kemp, an MVP-caliber slugger when healthy.

Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi told Eric Stephen of True Blue LA last week:

It’s something we’re continuing to explore. If you look at the landscape of baseball right now, one of the things that is really scarce is offense right now, and we’re fortunate enough to have a surplus of really good offensive outfielders. Obviously there is going to be some demand and some interest in those guys, and we’re going to sort through those as they come through.

Zaidi’s comment was referring to not only Kemp, but also Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier. However, he was pretty much talking about only Kemp in the sense that there is virtually no market for Crawford or Ethier. Crawford is still a decent top-of-the-order hitter, but with three years and $62.25 million left on his contract, he’s virtually unmovable. Ethier has three years and $56 million remaining and was an afterthought last year after being relegated to a left-handed bat off the bench, making his market nonexistent.

That leaves Kemp as the team’s one attractive trade asset. He is owed $107 million over the next five seasons. Last year he hit .287/.346/.506 with a .852 OPS, 25 home runs and 89 RBIs. The last time he was healthy for a full season—2011—he was arguably the game’s best all-around player. And now, he finally seems completely healthy and ready to shine again.

Given his healthy production and position (likely right field), Kemp seems a better value than Sandoval, Ramirez and Cruz. Given his age—he will pay virtually all next season at age 30—he is a better bet than Martinez.

Only a few teams have been talked about in a Kemp deal. The Seattle Mariners, San Diego Padres and Baltimore Orioles have at least had a talk with the Dodgers, but all have been turned off by the asking price. And if one of those teams, or another, wants the Dodgers to pick up a decent chunk of Kemp’s salary, the package of prospects might have to grow.

The Orioles are said to have scoffed at the Dodgers’ asking for one of Baltimore’s top young pitchers—Kevin Gausman or Dylan Bundy. Talks were said to have “not materialized into anything significant,” according to Eduardo A. Encina of The Baltimore Sun. However, the Orioles have now lost Cruz and Markakis since then, so talks could start again.

Baltimore is the defending American League East champion, but given what it has lost in the lineup and what the Red Sox and Blue Jays have done to bulk up, the Orioles might not be able to afford not replacing Cruz and Markakis with a quality slugger.

Another possibility by the time the Winter Meetings start, or end, is that the Dodgers land Lester with a last-minute push. If that happens, the team could be looking to trim payroll and lower its price on Kemp. Then a team might be willing to pay more of Kemp’s salary in return for sending back a lesser package of young players.

However, signing Lester would put the Dodgers in even more of a win-now situation than they are already in. And with Ramirez fleeing to Boston, the Dodgers might really need Kemp’s bat, which would explain why they are currently so staunch about the return and hesitant to pull the trigger for anything less. They are perfectly fine with keeping their No. 4 hitter, who was one of only four NL players to slug .500.

Kemp is the only hitter available now who can significantly affect a team’s lineup for more than one season. The Dodgers know this. So does everyone else. That is why he comes at a steep price.

At the Winter Meetings next week the Dodgers will find out just how much shoppers are willing to spend for their prized slugger.

Anthony Witrado covers Major League Baseball for Bleacher Report. He spent the previous three seasons as the national baseball columnist at Sporting News, and four years before that as the Brewers beat writer for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Follow Anthony on Twitter @awitrado and talk baseball here.

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