As the season draws closer, the initial excitement of all the Padres acquisitions is starting to turn to a little bit of anxiety. “What if we doesn’t work out?” we wonder. What if it all turns out for naught and we stripped our farm system for years to come? AJ Cassavel writes of SportsOnEarth.com that it all comes down to Matt Kemp for the Padres, and 2015 is what it all comes down to for Matt Kemp!
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As Cassavel writes, in 2011 it was clear that Matt Kemp was one of the best players in baseball. He finished 2nd in MVP voting to Ryan Braun, an award later tainted by a positive PED test for Braun but never given to Kemp. He was one homer short of being a 40/40 man, with 39 homers and 40 stolen bases exactly. Of course 2011 Mike Trout had just made his MLB debut and played in 40 games. He easily took over as the top man in LA and all of baseball in 2012 at just 20 years old.
Kemp had a decent season, but it was cut short to injuries and he hit 23 homers in 106 games played. Then came 2013. Still only 28-years old, he was limited now to 73 games and the emergence of Yasiel Puig took all the tabloid talk in Los Angeles. He only managed 6 home runs in what has to be considered a lost season but still managed to hit .270, which would’ve been good for best on the Padres last season. Matt Kemp was very glad when 2013 was over.
2014 of course started in San Diego for the Dodgers with a loss to Andrew Cashner. After a pretty mediocre start to the season and 4 outfielders that couldn’t seem to all get along or admit their own deficiencies, things were not looking good. Financially too of course, in 2012 he had signed an 8-year, $160M deal. An unproductive Matt Kemp might remind Dodger fans of Andruw Jones and his dreadful contract in Dodger Blue at $18M a year. Then – something seemed to click for Matt Kemp and he was off to 2011 Matt Kemp again. Over the second half of the season, he hit .309 and was second in all of MLB for home runs hit. He finished the season overall playing in 150 games, hitting 25 HR with 89 RBI and of course was traded to the Padres.
Financially for the Padres – 2015 is all gravy for Matt Kemp. Preller was able to get the Dodgers to pay down $18M of his $21M salary, leaving room for the Padres to get Justin Upton for this season and afford it all. After this year, the Dodgers only eat $3.5M of his salary through the end of his contract in 2019. Kemp will be 34 at that time, but as we know from his physical, he has very bad arthritis in both shoulders and hips. Chronic is what it was called. So it seems overly optimistic to think we have more than at best two seasons of super productive Matt Kemp before he settles down more into the veteran leader with decent production role. Of course we also hope at that time, that Wil Myers has matured into the marquee player and Kemp is the complement, but that is a whole other article to be written.
For now, the Padres are banking on Matt Kemp to show that he can be the emotional leader of this team, both on the field with his production and in the clubhouse, showing the Padres how to win for many players that have never even been on a winning team, let alone the playoffs. Make or break? Yes, I would say so.