Dan Uggla turning down a four-year, $48 million contract extension led to Florida trading him to Atlanta, but after the swap the Marlins also talked about how the move allows them to improve defensively.
Uggla consistently ranked among the worst defensive second basemen in baseball, so replacing him with Omar Infante is a clear upgrade. However, the Marlins stated plan of using Chris Coghlan in center field could erase any defensive gains made in the infield.
Coghlan has never played an inning in center field as a professional, in the minors or majors, and has been exclusively a left fielder in two seasons with the Marlins. Ultimate Zone Rating pegs him as eight runs below average in 213 games as a left fielder and other defensive metrics are similarly underwhelmed with his glove.
Toss in the fact that he missed the final six weeks of the season following knee surgery that he’s still recovering from and … well, Coghlan in center field just seems like a bad idea even if Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said, “We feel good about Coghlan out there.”
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.