Chipper Jones vowed to return in time for the Braves’ home opener after undergoing knee surgery on March 26 and sure enough he’s back in the lineup with three days to spare.
Jones ended up missing just four games following surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee.
Martin Prado and Juan Francisco have filled in for him at third base, but Francisco was a mess defensively yesterday and the Braves have scored just 2.5 runs per game in the early going.
Jones’ return means Prado can shift to left field full time, with Matt Diaz and Francisco likely losing the most playing time. Jose Constanza, who briefly supplanted Jason Heyward as a regular last season, was demoted to the minors to make room for Jones on the roster.
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.