A tweet from ESPN’s Jorge Arangure reminds us that today is the National League’s 134th birthday. The league was founded in New York by William Hulbert, the owner of the Chicago White Stockings, and the owners of the Philadelphia Athletics, the Boston Red Stockings, the Hartford Dark Blues, the Mutual of New York, the St. Louis Brown Stockings, the Cincinnati Red Stockings and the Louisville Grays.
Obviously much has changed. The White Stockings would soon be known as the Cubs. The Red Stockings would eventually be known as the Braves. Hartford remained until 1961, when it moved to Houston to become the Colt .45s, and was replaced by another team in Hartford that moved to Texas after the 1971 season, dropped the “Dark” from their nickname and simply became “The Blues.” By 1900 The Mutual had morphed from a baseball team into a regional bank, with branches in the Bronx, Brooklyn and northern Manhattan which themselves were reverted back into baseball team to fulfill contractual obligations. As you can see, it was really a time of flux in Major League Baseball.
One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is that the National League did not have the DH. This conclusively proves that — apart from the racial segregation, gambling, rampant alcoholism, short distance from mound to home and the fact that batters could call for a high pitch or a low pitch to his liking — Mr. Hulbert and his colleagues were on the side of the angels.
The Dodgers have pulled off their first blockbuster trade of the offseason, sending Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir, Charlie Culberson, Adrian Gonzalez and cash considerations to the Braves for Matt Kemp, per announcements from both teams. The Braves are set to designate Gonzalez for assignment on Monday, making him a free agent.
Kemp, 33, had a down year with the Braves in 2017, hitting a career-low -0.5 fWAR in 115 games with the club. At the plate, he slashed a modest .276/.318/.463 with 19 home runs and a .781 OPS through 467 plate appearances, but was hampered by a nagging left hamstring strain through most of the season. This will be his 10th campaign with the Dodgers.
Whether or not Kemp can rebound during his second stint in Los Angeles is almost beside the point, however. The deal is effectively a salary dump to end all salary dumps. Offloading multiple one-year contracts for McCarthy, Kazmir and Gonzalez should bring the Dodgers back under the $197 million luxury tax threshold and position them to make a run at some of the big fish in next year’s free agent pool. It’s also worth noting that they may not keep Kemp around for long — per Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, the club appears as likely to flip the veteran outfielder as they are to use him. As for the Braves, they not only rid themselves of the $43 million due Kemp through 2020, but added some rotation and infield depth with McCarthy and Culberson and can now give top prospect Ronald Acuna a legitimate tryout in left field.