Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

By Mitch Chortkoff
Sports Editor 

What's Worse? Trading Kemp Or Piazza

Once Again, Dodgers Send Away A Popular Slugger

 

December 15, 2014

Matt Kemp

In 1998 the Dodgers traded away Mike Piazza in what immediately became the most unpopular move in their Los Angeles history.

Last week the Dodgers traded away Matt Kemp, and judging by initial reactions this is going to rival Piazza's departure as the worst decision the club has made.

Conditions are different. In 1998 new Dodger owners were trying to make a point that they were not going to cave in to players' salary demands. Piazza's contract had expired and negotiations weren't going well on a new one. So they traded him to the New York Mets, where he continued to be a superb player.

If memory serves me right the Fox owners didn't even clue in Fred Claire, who was merely their general manager.

Before submitting this column I contacted Claire this week and asked if I had this right.

"Yes, that's true," replied Claire. "I didn't know about the trade until it was announced.

"I wanted to keep Piazza and, in fact, I was trying to acquire Gary Sheffield. What a combination that would have been."

This time Kemp wasn't asking for a raise. But a new Dodger man in charge of shaping the roster, Andrew Friedman, decided Kemp should be part of a dramatic roster overhaul.

What happened makes no sense to me.

Kemp is one of baseball's best players when healthy. He has struggled with injuries in recent years and he's 30 years old. But Kemp came on strong in the second half of last season, and that was a major reason why the Dodgers won the NL West division. If the Dodgers were wondering if he was declining, wasn't Kemp's vast contribution to their second half of the season enough to convince them otherwise?

It should have been.

And why are they trading him to a team in the same division? I used to work in San Diego and learned the Padres like nothing better than beating the Dodgers.

I doubt that Ned Colletti, the Dodgers' general manager in the last nine years, would have sent Kemp away.

But Friedman has the opinion that major changes are necessary. Maybe he's right because the Dodgers had the highest payroll in baseball history last season yet didn't reach the World Series.

But removing Kemp significantly weakens the lineup. Howie Kendrick, acquired from the Angels, is a good addition, but doesn't have the clout Kemp does.

It's also disturbing that the Dodgers got very little for Kemp and were clearly dumping salary.

It seems obvious that Friedman favors defense, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Mike Piazza

But in two other deals he has sacrificed even more offense. Dee Gordon, a .289 hitter who led major league baseball in stolen bases with 64 and hit 12 triples, has also been sent away. So has shortstop Hanley Ramirez, a sub-par fielder but an accomplished hitter. Jimmy Rollins, a highly respected 15-year veteran of the Phillies, is a good addition but he's 36 years old and batted just .243 last season although he did hit 17 home runs..

Are the Dodgers on a youth movement or not? It's hard to tell. In the trade for Kendrick they gave up Andrew Heaney, a highly regarded 23-year-old lefthanded pitcher who they had acquired earlier in the day in another deal.

It's obvious Friedman is sticking his neck out with this roster overhaul. Only two teams make the World Series. Winning the division shouldn't be discounted. Should every team but two in major league baseball go nuts in a roster overhaul even if they've had a relatively successful season?

I think not.

 

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