ATLANTA -- Alex Anthopoulos leaned on some familiarity as he creatively found a way to part ways with Matt Kemp in exchange for benefits that will provide both an immediate impact and the opportunity to be a significant player on next offseason's star-studded free-agent market.Kemp was traded to the Dodgers
ATLANTA -- Alex Anthopoulos leaned on some familiarity as he creatively found a way to part ways with Matt Kemp in exchange for benefits that will provide both an immediate impact and the opportunity to be a significant player on next offseason's star-studded free-agent market.
Kemp was traded to the Dodgers in exchange for right-handed pitcher Brandon McCarthy, left-handed pitcher Scott Kazmir, utility man Charlie Culberson, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and $4.5 million in cash. The financially motivated deal was announced by both clubs Saturday afternoon.
When Anthopoulos became the Braves' general manager on Nov. 13, he knew one of his greatest challenges would be finding a way to move Kemp and the two years remaining on his bulky contract. But having served as Los Angeles' vice president of baseball operations the past two seasons, Anthopoulos was also quite familiar with how this deal might also benefit the Dodgers from a financial perspective.
"We had a lot of different ideas and proposals," Anthopoulos said. "We talked to a lot of different teams about players with significant money coming back. The Dodgers definitely weren't the only team we talked to. We explored a lot of options. This was the one [deal] that got traction and to be candid, this was the only one that would work for us."
It was no secret the Braves wanted to cut ties with Kemp, and the baseball world also knew the Dodgers were ready to bid adieu to Gonzalez. The former All-Stars, both of which will earn a $21.5 million salary during the 2018 season, could soon be on the free-agent market.
Gonzalez agreed to waive his no-trade clause when the Braves guaranteed he would be designated for assignment upon completion of the trade. The Dodgers have not provided a clear indication of what they could do with Kemp, who could be flipped to an American League club or eventually released. The veteran outfielder battled multiple hamstring injuries this past season as well as regaining the weight he had lost the previous offseason.
With the addition of Gonzalez and one year of control of the other three acquired players -- McCarthy ($10 million), Kazmir ($16 million) and Culberson (not yet arbitration-eligible), the Braves added approximately $48 million worth of payroll for the 2018 season. The net effect on the payroll drops to approximately $30 million when the $18 million (accounts for the $3.5 million the Dodgers already owed via the terms of the December 2014 trade to the Padres) owed to Kemp is subtracted.
But the payroll addition does not simply consist of dead money as McCarthy and Culberson could certainly make an impact next season. Recognizing the Dodgers' desire to get under the luxury-tax cap, the Braves were willing to take on money this year and consequently enrich their financial position for the 2019 season. With Kemp's departure, the Braves now have an available lineup spot for No. 1 prospect Ronald Acuna, who could crack Atlanta's lineup early next season. This deal also satisfied Anthopoulos' desire to add experience to the rotation and acquire a potential bench benefit.
But the most significant impact of parting ways with Kemp's contract may be felt next offseason when the Braves could have close to $100 million to play with on a free-agent market that could include Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Clayton Kershaw and Josh Donaldson.
McCarthy is projected to open this season in Atlanta's starting rotation and Kazmir could gain a spot if he is able to avoid the injury woes that sidelined him this past season and affected him to some extent each of the past three seasons. Culberson provides the Braves the backup infielder they were seeking and could certainly be on the Opening Day roster as he is out of options.
"We filled two spots on the roster that we were going to look to do something with anyway if we could," Anthopoulos said. "We got somebody who can bridge the gap to the young [starting pitchers] and give us some innings and experience this year."
Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
By dealing Kemp, Atlanta has created an opportunity for Acuna to earn a starting role in early April. The 19-year-old (20 on Dec. 18) may need time to improve his strike-zone command (0.3 BB/K ratio in '17), but he is coming off an incredible year in which he hit .325 with 21 homers and 44 steals across three Minor League levels before flourishing during the Arizona Fall League. Even in the shallowest of leagues, Acuna will warrant a notable draft-day investment given his incredible five-category potential.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.