The Dodgers are making trades faster than I can write columns. This morning, it was reported that the Dodgers traded Matt Kemp and Tim Federowicz to the Padres for catcher Yasmani Grandal, starting pitcher Joe Wieland, and minor league pitcher Zach Eflin. Last night, the Dodgers signed pitcher Brandon McCarthy to a four-year deal.
While Bill Plaschke won't like the Kemp deal, it's a calculated gamble that makes sense. First off, it's been widely reported that the Dodgers are trying to cut payroll, so one high-priced player need to be sent away. Reportedly, the Dodgers will save $76 million in salary with this deal. But second, it's difficult to expect much production out of Kemp anymore.
When Kemp is himself, he's one of the best players in the game. But it's a reasonable bet to make that he won't be the same player ever again. Sure, Kemp hit extremely well in the second half of last season. However, he's suffered so many injuries in recent years that expecting his body to hold up in his 30s is probably expecting too much.
Kemp is also a really bad defensive outfielder. He was statistically the worst defensive centerfielder in the game last year before being shifted to right field midway through the season. He still produced a negative UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) at that position, while forcing Yasiel Puig to move to centerfield where the Cuban also had a negative UZR. Kemp has always been bad at tracking flyballs, but he used to make up for it with his speed. But as Kemp has aged, he's lost that speed.
The Dodgers' best defensive alignment is to put Carl Crawford in left, Yasiel Puig in right, and Joc Pederson in center. If Pederson isn't ready though, then Andre Ethier is still serviceable enough in center. And Scott Van Slyke, who hits lefties extremely well, is still hanging around.
Aside from the cost savings, the Dodgers presumably bring in their catcher of the future in Grandal. I'm not thrilled that he's already served a 50-game steroid suspension and that he was named in the Biogenesis report, but I do trust Andrew Friedman's judgment on his abilities. A.J. Ellis is better suited to be a backup catcher at age 34 anyways. In both 2012 and 2013, Ellis' hitting stats declined considerably in the second half, so it makes sense to limit his playing time and keep his body fresh throughout the season.
Wieland is a pitcher coming off of Tommy John surgery who presumably will compete for the No. 5 spot in the rotation. As I mentioned yesterday, Friedman has made a living off of finding players just before they become valuable contributors. I'm not sure if Wieland will be in that group, but it's worth a shot.
As for McCarthy, it appears his signing was motivated by new front office executive Farhan Zaidi, who befriended the pitcher when they were both in Oakland. Four years and $48 million is a lot to give a pitcher with an injury history, but McCarthy's best years were with the A's. Zaidi probably thinks he knows something that will allow the Dodgers to tap into McCarthy's skillset to maximize his potential.
It's been written that the flurry of recent deals shows the Dodgers' creativity. But this is what Dodger fans should expect with Friedman. He thinks outside the box like few executives in the game. He's also as fearless as they come. And I think his moves have them further down the path to success.