The Royals had a cool 3.45 team ERA in 2013 that ranked sixth in the majors, but they still missed the playoffs and Ervin Santana is expected to leave as a free agent this offseason. So, yet again, Kansas City’s front office is on a search for starting pitching.
ESPN’s Buster Olney hears that the Royals “want to work something out” with free agent right-hander Josh Johnson, who had a miserable 6.20 ERA and 1.66 WHIP in 16 starts with the Blue Jays this past summer and underwent elbow surgery in October.
The appeal is that Johnson was among the best starters in MLB between 2009-2012 and can probably be had on a low-risk one-year deal. Johnson, who isn’t yet 30 years old, registered a superb 3.15 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 8.2 K/9 in eight seasons with the Marlins before getting shipped north as part of a 12-player November 2012 trade. He owns a 3.40 career ERA and 1.27 career WHIP in 998 total big league frames.
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.