Two nights ago the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner was pitching a shutout against the Padres at Petco Park when Matt Kemp hit a monster of a home run onto the 3rd deck of the Western Metal Supply Building in the 9th inning. And despite the Padres struggles in the early stages of the season, hitting bombs and driving in runs are two things right-fielder Matt Kemp has done with frequency in 2016. As a matter of fact, Kemp is on pace to hit 40 home runs and drive in 115 runs this season for the Padres. But that isn’t stopping Eddie Brown of the San Diego Union Tribune from saying that the San Diego front office should trade the 2-time All Star “sooner rather than later”.
Well Mr. Brown, I’m going to have to respectfully disagree with you on that.
The San Diego Padres organization is trying to prove that they are no longer the franchise that trades away star players. That the club who traded the likes of Ozzie Smith, Roberto Alomar, Gary Sheffield, Adrian Gonzalez, and most recently Anthony Rizzo, is no longer in the business of selling off their best assets. Instead the club made aggressive moves last offseason to try and show that they were taking more seriously the role of a competitive ball club. Of course, many of those moves backfired, but the standard was set for doing what it takes to improve the roster. And despite the slow and uneventful offseason prior to this opening day, the Padres would be taking a major move backwards in becoming a great team.
As I stated earlier this year when I talked about AJ Preller’s mismanagement of the team, the Padres can’t get better by losing their best players. And right now, that is exactly what Kemp is. Kemp leads the team in home runs (10), RBI (29), total bases (78), extra base hits (19), and slugging percentage (.500).
So why would anybody suggest getting rid of a player who means more to the Padres’ offense than any other person on the roster? Well, Brown gives a couple of fairly logical reasons.
Firstly, according to the Union Tribune writer the Padres need to start their rebuilding effort, and a 31 year old outfielder who is making $21.75 million a year might not be the perfect fit for the restoration of the roster. And to that, I would argue that outfielder BJ (I’m not calling you Melvin Jr.) Upton is not only older and less productive than Kemp, but costs nearly as much. Kemp gets paid $18.25 million annually by San Diego with the other $3.5 million being paid by his former team the Los Angeles Dodgers. Meanwhile Upton will cost the Padres $14.45 million this season, and next year that number will increase to $15.45 million, only a $3 million difference for a much better player. So if the Padres are going to drop an older overpaid outfielder from their ranks, I would suggest losing the one with less hits, less home runs, and less RBI.
Brown’s second main point is that the Padres have two very good outfield prospects in the minor leagues that are waiting to be called up when there is an opening. And he is right that both Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot are very good pro prospects. So good in fact, that many teams would be willing to trade valuable pieces to acquire one of the young players. And it might be easier to dangle young talented outfielders in the face of aggressive teams during the trade deadline than it would be to try and sell people on Kemp. If San Diego could trade either of those young players and in return pull a shortstop worthy of starting in the Major Leagues, the Padres would be big time winners during the annual mid-season roster shuffle. And doing so without losing their best offensive weapon would make it all the sweeter for the San Diego. After all, their production at right field, where Kemp plays, is nowhere near as bad as that of their shortstop position. 34-year old starting shortstop Alexei Ramirez has less than half the RBI and has fewer hits than Kemp despite appearing in more games this season. Instead of trading Kemp for more rebuilding prospects, the Padres front office should look at trading one of their prospective young players for a middle infielder that can truly hit the ball, and help the Padres win now and moving forward.
And Brown’s last point is that Kemp has yet to put together a full season of solid baseball, with just half seasons of excellence since 2013. The good news however, is that his best half seasons have been after the All-Star break, where over the past 3 seasons Kemp is batting .302 and averaging 16 HR’s. All of this meaning while Kemp is leading the Padres in nearly every major offensive statistic, the 31-year old outfielder isn’t even at the point of the season where his numbers start to improve.
So if the player that is currently on track to hit 40 home runs, and drive in 115 runs is only expected to improve on those numbers, why would you trade him?
To save a little money? Well the Padres already showed that lowering the payroll isn’t a priority with the way they spent money last offseason. So is it to make space to bring up young talented outfielders? That’s not where the organization needs help, so maybe the front office can trade away the prospects that can’t crack the major league team’s starting lineup for a productive shortstop. And we know it’s not because we fear Matt Kemp could face a downfall later this season, as we showed that he just gets better during the last half of the season.
So with all of the logic and stats advising the GM AJ Preller not to trade Matt Kemp away, the question becomes, “When does the deal get done?”. When does Matt Kemp pack his bags for Anaheim to help a struggling Angels’ offense or get traded to Washington to protect their lineup and finally force pitchers to throw to Bryce Harper? As much as Padres fans wish the team would hold on to their best player, it is a scenario played out too many times in San Diego, and it won’t be too long before Matt Kemp leaves.