The Dodgers and Braves swung an out-of-nowhere, payroll-geared trade Saturday consisting of five major leaguers, with just one (Matt Kemp) going to Los Angeles in exchange for Adrian Gonzalez, Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy and Charlie Culberson. LA, which made the trade for luxury tax purposes, previously tried to send Gonzalez, Kazmir and McCarthy to the Marlins as part of a package for now-Yankee Giancarlo Stanton, according to Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times. Although that failed, Dodgers brass already had a fallback option in the Braves, whose general manager – Alex Anthopoulos – worked in LA’s front office until mid-November. The two sides began discussing the parameters of Saturday’s trade shortly after his hiring, per McCullough. Talks gained steam during this week’s Winter Meetings before culminating in an agreement Saturday.
- The Braves immediately designated Gonzalez for assignment after his acquisition, but the 35-year-old had to waive his no-trade clause before the deal could occur. Gonzalez touched on that choice afterward, saying in a statement: “My final decision was not based on playing time, as I had agreed to a limited bench role. It is a way to test the free-agent market and see what opportunities are out there for me so I can make the best decision moving forward for me and my family. Lifting the no-trade clause is the hardest decision I have ever made in my career due to the fact that I loved every single second being a Dodger.”
- The Padres will consider a reunion with Gonzalez if they’re unable to reel in free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer, Bob Nightengale of USA Today suggests (Twitter link). Gonzalez was a franchise player in San Diego from 2006-10, slashing .288/.374/.514 with 161 home runs in 3,425 plate appearances and earning three All-Star nods.
- Shortly after the news broke, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported the Dodgers would likely trade or release Kemp before he ever plays another game in their uniform (he was previously with LA from 2006-14). The Dodgers will first try to flip Kemp, confirms McCullough, who adds that they “appear willing to offer prospects” to help convince someone to take some of his contract. Kemp, 33, is due $21.5MM in each of the next two seasons. Keith Law of ESPN opines that he wouldn’t even be worth picking up if the Dodgers ate all of that money (subscription required and recommended). Regarding a discussion he had with Kemp, Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said: “I was very open and honest with him about what the future might hold. It’s just too difficult to say, definitively, at this point.”
- Having completed this trade, it seems the Braves’ heavy lifting for the offseason is mostly over, as David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution details. They improved their defense by getting rid of Kemp, thus freeing up a spot in the outfield for elite prospect Ronald Acuna (he’ll be in the majors early in 2018, whether it’s Opening Day or a bit later); added a veteran starter in McCarthy (possibly two if Kazmir recovers from a hip injury); and landed a backup infielder they like in Culberson. While Anthopoulos said the Braves could still seek a third baseman and relief help, he noted that those areas are not priorities, O’Brien writes.
- Meanwhile, Nightengale, Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs and Bill Shaikin of the LA Times agree that this trade will help set up an action-packed offseason in a year. Now that the Dodgers are unlikely to exceed the $197MM luxury tax threshold in 2018, they can be more aggressive in trying to reel in certain members of a star-studded class of free agents next winter. One of their own standouts, left-hander Clayton Kershaw, could be a prominent part of that group.