Three weeks ago the Braves re-acquired outfielder Matt Diaz from the Pirates for a player to be named later and today Pittsburgh chose minor-league reliever Eliecer Cardenas to complete the deal.
Cardenas was in the Twins’ farm system until this year, when the Braves picked him in the minor-league phase of the Rule 5 draft.
He had an amazing season, throwing 57 innings with a 0.75 ERA and 75 strikeouts, but he was also a 23-year-old facing Single-A hitters and has a modest track record. And he got rocked after moving up to Double-A late in the season.
He’s certainly a fair return for Diaz, whom the Pirates were happy to remove from the payroll after signing him to a two-year, $4.25 million deal this offseason. Diaz didn’t hit in Pittsburgh and has gotten a total of just 28 plate appearances in 21 days with Atlanta.
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.