After rumors circulated leading up to and through the few days of the 2014 Major League Baseball Winter Meetings, the host city and their team, has made one of the biggest splashes of the event.
The San Diego Padres led by new General Manager A.J. Preller, acquired outfielder Matt Kemp and catcher Tim Federowicz from the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for catcher Yasmani Grandal and pitchers Joe Wieland and Zach Eflin. per CBS Sports Jon Heyman and UT-San Diego’s Dennis Lin and Kirk Kenney. The Dodgers will also send $30 million to the Padres. The deal is expected to be finalized later today.
Kemp, who has four years and $107 million remaining on his current deal, is the impact bat that the Padres have longed for since the end of the regular season. The team attempted to sign both San Francisco Giants’ free agent third baseman Pablo Sandoval and Cuban defector Yasmany Tomas, but lost out on both.
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Kemp in nine big league seasons, is a career .292 hitter, who has averaged 26 home runs and 94 driven in over his career. In 2014, after two injury-plagued seasons, he reestablished himself as a legitimate power threat, hitting .287 with 26 home runs and 89 RBI. He slugged .506 and his OPS was .852. Kemp will slide into the middle of a Padres’ lineup who is losing Grandal, the piece headed to the Dodgers, and last season’s team leader in home runs with 15.
Federowicz hit .327 with 18 homers for AAA Albuquerque last season and will handle catching duties with Rene Rivera.
Grandal had previously been suspended for his PED use, and then injured his knee, which affected his offensive performance with the Padres. Grandal split time at first base while he was healing with another disappointing performer, Yonder Alonso.
The Padres may not be done wheeling and dealing, as additional rumors circulate that the Friars and Boston Red Sox have discussed a deal that would send Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to San Diego for a starting pitcher. The Red Sox would prefer someone like Tyson Ross, while the Padres are believed to be dangling Ian Kennedy. Each player is headed into their free agent walk year.
As for Kemp, he now moves down the I-5 freeway and will attempt to remain healthy (73 games in 2013, 106 in 2012), and put a charge into a lineup that was one of the worst statistical-hitting lineups in recent baseball history. The team hit under .200 during the month of June. At the end of the season, hitting coach Phil Plantier was shown the door for the team’s futility.
Many believe with the strong farm system, the depth of starting pitching and bullpen arms, that the Padres are an impact bat or two away from being a legitimate Wild Card contender as early as 2015. Preller, who replaced now-Dodgers senior official Josh Byrnes, isn’t waiting around for a rebuilding project. In his first tour of duty as a GM, he wants to make his mark now, and that mark while off target in free agency, landed on a bulls-eye with the acquisition of Kemp.
The Padres will have Kemp back in center field, where he longed to play last season. Dodgers’ manager Don Mattingly informed Kemp he no longer had the skills to be a quality center fielder, and instead moved him to left. With the Kemp deal, the Dodgers now have a power-hitting catcher in Grandal, and have opened up some room in their crowded outfield. Now remaining are Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier, and Yasiel Puig. The Dodgers also have top prospect Joc Pederson waiting in the wings, and if L.A. can unload Crawford or Ethier, expect to see Pederson with the big club in spring training.