On Saturday, Ken Rosenthal from the Athletic broke the news that the Dodgers had traded 1B Adrian Gonzalez, IF Charlie Culberson, SP Scott Kazmir, and SP Brandon McCarthy to the Atlanta Braves for OF Matt Kemp.
The exchange of contracts caused by this trade allows the Dodgers to free up payroll — getting under the luxury tax — in anticipation of the 2018-19 Free Agent classes; while the Braves will most likely DFA Gonzalez, while maintaining Kazmir, McCarthy, and Culberson as possible additions as they look to rebuild.
Sources: Trade is effectively cash-neutral overall, but will get #Dodgers under $197M luxury-tax threshold for 2018. Kemp’s money spread out over two years. Three players #Braves getting all one-year guys. ATL will designate Gonzalez for assignment, enabling him to be free agent.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 16, 2017
Kazmir will probably be sent to Triple-A, staying in reserve until a pitcher is injured or in case they need an extra arm. McCarthy, however, will probably be a reliable arm in the bullpen, given his late-season heroics with the Dodgers. And Culberson will most likely play the same role that Chris Taylor holds with the Dodgers, though restricted to the infield.
As for Kemp, the Dodgers will take on the $43 million left on the original contract they tended him many summers ago. With all the deals coming off the books for Los Angeles, this gives them more flexibility to add more help this offseason or next as they continue to eye contention.
However, Kemp will most likely not stay long with the club, as it is speculated that he will be released or used as a trade option to gain more payroll leeway and net a prospect in return. Kemp is blocked at every outfield spot, both at the major-league level and at Triple-A. This makes Kemp expendable, yet moving him will not be easy, given his declining defense. Kemp is still a good bat — though not a reliable one — and could serve as a DH-option and occasional fourth outfielder for an AL club.
With the Dodgers now on their way to be under the luxury tax, they will become more aggressive spenders next offseason. This means that there is a bigger chance of re-signing Clayton Kershaw, while actively pursuing the services of Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson, and other big-name free agents — though a move for a third baseman like Donaldson or Machado may not be in their plans.
The best part of all for L.A. is that the trade doesn’t affect the big-league club. The entire 2017 staff is set to return for another run at the 2018 postseason. Trading away Kazmir, McCarthy, Culberson, and Gonzalez makes room on the 40-man roster for other players down at the farm — like Walker Buehler and Alex Verdugo — to start contributing. This allows the Dodgers to keep their core young and set for a run at contention reminiscent of the late ’90s-early ’00s Braves (ironic, isn’t it?).
Atlanta will have to content itself in continuing its rebuilding process given the events of last month. Los Angeles, on its side, has kept its active roster mostly intact, while clearing up payroll and aiming to become more active next offseason. Andrew Friedman and the rest of the front office is determined to bring one — and more — trophies to Dodgertown, making their current moves some of the most serious of the past couple of seasons.