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The Old Switcheroo

January 13, 2018

Hugh Atkins

Two trades during this baseball offseason demonstrate one of the reasons I seem to be less interested in baseball these days. On December 11 of last year, the Miami Marlins traded outfielder Giancarlo Stanton to the New York Yankees for second baseman Starlin Castro and a couple of prospects. Then on December 16, the Atlanta Braves traded outfielder Matt Kemp to the Los Angeles Dodgers for pitchers Brandon McCarthy and Scott Kazmir, utility man Charlie Culberson, first baseman Adrián González, and $4.5 million.

New Marlins owner, Derek Jeter, is taking heat in south Florida for the Stanton trade. Stanton led the National League with 59 home runs and is the league’s reigning Most Valuable Player, so fans see the trade as nothing more than the salary dump it is. While it is easy to sympathize with the Marlins faithful, I think it is important to place the blame for the trade on those who are really responsible for it.

© T.C.G.

The Marlins sewed the seeds of the Stanton trade back in 2014 when Jeffrey Loria gave Stanton a 13-year contract worth $325 million; the deal also included a no-trade clause. In a post at the time of the trade, I predicted that the Marlins eventually would regret the deal. Like I said then, Stanton is a very good player, it’s just that the contract limits the Marlins’ ability to retain any other good players. Plus, it is ludicrous to give any player a 13-year contract.

The trade of Stanton to the Yankees symbolizes one of baseball’s biggest problems. Teams from small markets cannot compete with the teams from New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and other large-market cities. The Stanton contract is still ludicrous, but the Yankees can afford to be ludicrous, while the Marlins cannot.

As with the Stanton deal, the genesis of the Kemp trade goes back a couple of seasons. This deal is actually the second phase of the Braves trying to minimize the damage of another bad trade. At the trade deadline in 2015, the Braves obtained third baseman Hector Olivera from the Dodgers and gave up, among others, left-handed pitchers Alex Wood, Luis Avilán, and infielder Jose Peraza.

Olivera was unimpressive in his brief time in Atlanta. In early 2016, Major League Baseball suspended him after his arrest for domestic violence. At the trade deadline that season, the Braves pawned off Olivera on the San Diego Padres in exchange for the Braves taking Kemp.

© T.C.G.

Early returns on the Kemp trade looked good for the Braves. During the remainder of the 2016 season, Kemp played in 56 games for the Braves; he hit .280 with 12 home runs and 39 runs batted in. Kemp got off to a good start last season. At the end of May, he was hitting .345 with 10 home runs, and 30 RBIs; then things headed south. Kemp’s production decreased as his weight increased. He also had trouble staying in the lineup due to repeated hamstring injuries.

The Braves needed to move Kemp or Nick Markakis to make room in their outfield for their young phenom, Ronald Acuna, and given Kemp’s falling production, he was the logical choice to go. Whatever the reason for it, the details of Atlanta’s latest Kemp deal sound more like a game of three-card monte than a baseball trade. The main reason for the trade, for both teams, was to move around a lot of money and bad contracts.

To show how convoluted Kemp’s deal is, he will make $21.75 million for each of the next two seasons, with $15.75 million coming from the Braves, $3.5 million from the Dodgers, and $2.5 million from the Padres.

© T.C.G.

This whole deal between the Braves and the Dodgers would not even have been possible without González agreeing to waive the no-trade provision in his contract; he agreed only after receiving assurances from the Braves that they would grant him his unconditional release after the trade. So, in this deal, the Braves take on an additional $22+ million for another player who will never wear their uniform.

I hate to sound old-fashioned, but I long for the days when the primary reason for a trade was an attempt for both teams to improve their chances of winning the pennant.

Hall of Fame Voting

When the Baseball Hall of Fame announces its newest members in the next few days, I expect former Brave, Chipper Jones, to make it in; this is his first year on the ballot.

Without going into any sort of analysis or justification, here are the players from the current ballot that I would pick if I had a vote:

Vladimir Guerrero

Andruw Jones

Chipper Jones

Mike Mussina

Fred McGriff

Omar Vizquel

Larry Walker

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Jeanne Rose permalink
    January 15, 2018 4:18 pm

    Enjoyed this article! Thanks for writing it!

    Like

  2. January 19, 2018 6:08 pm

    I have a feeling that the Yankees will regret the Stanton contract sometime down the road, but as always the fans will foot the bill.

    Like

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