Brian Matusz had the shortest start of his miserable season yesterday, recording just four outs while allowing five runs against the Yankees.
He threw 176 innings with a 4.30 ERA as a 23-year-old rookie last season, but instead of establishing himself atop the Orioles’ rotation Matusz is 1-7 with a 9.84 ERA in 10 starts and spent much of the season in the minors.
President of baseball operations Andy MacPhail indicated that yesterday was probably Matusz’s final start of the season, admitting to Brittany Ghiroli of MLB.com that “I don’t know that he’s doing us any good or we’re doing him any good” by remaining in the rotation to take a beating every five days.
Buck Showalter wouldn’t commit to Matusz’s status either way, but the left-hander has coughed up 48 runs in 43 innings while allowing opponents to hit .364 with a .679 slugging percentage. To put that in some context, consider that Jose Bautista is hitting .306 with a .632 slugging percentage.
As part of his overall struggles Matusz is in historic territory when it comes to serving up homers. He’s surrendered 15 long balls in 43 innings for a rate of 3.1 homers per nine innings, which is the highest homer rate in baseball history among all pitchers with at least 10 starts. If he were to somehow throw 200 innings at that rate it would equal 70 homers.
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.