ATLANTA -- Braves general manager John Coppolella's willingness to leave no stone unturned while seeking creative ways to improve his club's future has positioned him to part ways with Hector Olivera and take a chance on the possibility that Matt Kemp can provide the power potential the GM might not have found on this year's free-agent market.
The Braves officially acquired Kemp and at least $10.5 million from the Padres on Saturday night in exchange for Olivera. Atlanta's executives viewed this as a move that could enrich the club's future and also create some excitement as the team attempts to turn things around during the season's final two months.
"I think for us this makes a lot of sense," Coppolella said. "It's a sign that we aren't happy losing and we aren't trying to finish with the worst record so that we can get the first pick [in next year's Draft]. We want to win every night. Making this trade now is a big deal for us because it helps us to get better for this year and the next three years after that."
The Padres have disavowed themselves of a portion of Kemp's large contract, and the Braves will realize their goal to end their relationship with Olivera, who is currently serving an 82-game suspension that was levied after he was arrested for assaulting a female acquaintance in April.
This was essentially simply a swap of undesirable contracts for both clubs. The Padres' hope to at least reduce a portion of the $54 million owed to Kemp over the next three years was significant enough to lead them to trade for a player who's unlikely to remain in the organization for long. According to sources, the Padres plan to designate Olivera for assignment when he comes off the restricted list next week, but the club has not confirmed.
"We like the Kemp trade and we like the dynamics of the Kemp trade," Braves president of baseball operations John Hart said. "We like the player. We feel this is just the first piece of what we're going to do this winter to begin to turn this club back around."
Kemp is owed $64.5 million from 2017-19. With the $10.5 million gained via this deal, the Braves will provide the veteran outfielder an average annual salary of approximately $18 million during this span.
Or if you consider the $28.5 million they had owed Olivera, the Braves will pay an additional $8.5 million per season to Kemp. This cost can at least provide some value, whereas Olivera's contract had essentially become a sunk cost because he was never expected to be welcomed back into Atlanta's clubhouse.
"Good players make big money," Coppolella said. "A big part of it for us was getting that offset from Hector Olivera's contract and the fact we were able to get even more money was a great help to us."
Kemp's status as one of the game's premier players has faded over the past few years, but he still provided some value while hitting .262 with 23 home runs and a .774 OPS through 100 games with the Padres this season. The 31-year-old has totaled 46 home runs and posted a .763 OPS since the start of 2015.
With the addition of Kemp, the Braves will likely be further motivated to trade either Nick Markakis or Ender Inciarte before the start of the 2017 season.
Coincidentally, the Braves completed the Kemp deal one year to the day after acquiring Olivera from the Dodgers in exchange for their former top prospect, Jose Peraza, and pitcher Alex Wood. The Braves regretted that trade when Olivera produced a .715 OPS and displayed bad offensive mechanics upon making his Major League debut in September.
The trade became even more regrettable when Olivera was arrested for assault and battery at a hotel in Arlington, Va. Almost immediately, the Braves made it clear they would find a way to part ways with the Cuban outfielder, who was one of the most highly regarded international prospects before he signed a six-year, $62 million deal with the Dodgers last year.
"We didn't give up a Draft pick, and we didn't trade away any prospects," Coppolella said. "So, we were able to stick with the plan that we had while still filling a major need for us with right-handed power."
Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
Kemp has not been a fantasy stud in recent seasons given his performance in the batting average and stolen-base (0 this year) departments, but he's already slugged 23 homers in 2016 to maintain relevance in mixed-league formats. But said power aside, he may see fewer chances to compile counting stats after moving from a middle-of-the-pack San Diego offense to an Atlanta lineup that ranks last in the Majors in runs scored. The biggest winner in this trade could be outfield prospect -- and Triple-A homers leader (25) -- Hunter Renfroe, for whom San Diego has seemingly made room by trading Kemp and Melvin Upton Jr. this week. Renfroe should be stashed in all leagues immediately.