We heard rumors of a deal like this brewing in the past several days, but now it’s happening: the Los Angels Dodgers have traded Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig and Alex Wood to the Cincinnati Reds. Jeff Passan of Yahoo was the first to report the deal was going down.
As previously rumored, Homer Bailey is going to the Los Angeles Dodgers as a means of offsetting some salary. The Dodgers will reportedly release Bailey once the deal is done, and will be getting prospects Jeter Downs, Josiah Gray and some international bonus pool money. They will send around $7 million in cash to the Reds.
This move seems all about clearing money — and outfield space — for the Dodgers. Kemp is due to make $20 million this year and Yasiel Puig and Alex Wood will, via arbitration, combine to make somewhere in the neighborhood of $20-$22 million. Bailey’s actual salary and the buyout of his option year amount to $28 million, but for luxury tax purposes, he’ll cost the Dodgers around $17.5 million.
What does one do with such money and such space? One suspects that one makes a run a Bryce Harper, who now would look really, really good in right field in Dodger Stadium.
For now, though, that’s mere speculation. What is real is that the Yasiel Puig era in Los Angeles is over. It’s been a crazy era. An often turbulent one, an often enjoyable one, but one that seems to have run its course. Puig was largely relegated to a platoon role in 2018, particularly in the playoffs. It was likely the right move strategically, but it didn’t sit well with him according to recent reports. A trade was rumored and now one has happened.
Puig ends the Dodgers portion of his career with a line of .279/.353/.478 (OPS+ 127) and 108 home runs. Those are pretty good numbers, and his defense remains superior, but he never did quite live up to the star potential he showed in his early Dodgers years. Given how much of the spotlight he commanded back in 2013 and 2014 or so, it’s possible he never could have, no matter how he performed.
Kemp was a great story for the Dodgers in 2018. Making his return to Los Angeles after a few years in San Diego and Atlanta, he bounced back in a pretty big way, hitting .290/.338/.481 with 21 homers and making the All-Star team. He faded pretty substantially in the second half, however, and it was not a good bet that he’d be anywhere near worth his salary in 2019. It was probably wise for the Dodgers to look for a way to move him and now they have.
Wood took a pretty big step back from his excellent 2017 season last year, going 9-7 with a 3.68 ERA and spending some time working out of the bullpen. The Dodgers rotation is pretty stacked and it wasn’t always easy for Wood to stick there. He constitutes a big improvement for the Reds’ rotation, however.
Which is what this deal seems to be about for Cincinnati: (a) acquiring Puig who, in his walk year may be a rental, but who has every incentive to go crazy in a hitter-friendly park and prove his worth before hitting free agency; and (b) acquiring Wood, who will bolster a suspect rotation. Whether the Reds keep Kemp around is unclear. An added bonus is cutting ties with Homer Bailey who, two no-hitters notwithstanding, was never close to being worth the massive contract the Reds gave him and whose career, one suspects, is virtually over.
For the Dodgers, it means big, big moves are likely on the horizon. This is not a team in rebuilding mode. This is a move of retrenchment and reorganization. A move, one has to assume, which will be followed up by either a big free agent signing or a strong push to acquire a big name via a trade.
The offseason just got really, really interesting.