When the MLB season started, it seemed impossible the Padres would ever be able to get out from under the contracts of Melvin Upton Jr. or Matt Kemp.
In less than a week, both of them were traded away.
On Saturday the Friars agreed to deal Kemp to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for troubled but talented IF/OF Hector Olivera in a money-saving move for San Diego.
Kemp is having a better-than-expected offensive season with 23 home runs and 69 RBI but his .285 on-base percentage and sub-par outfield defense nullify the traditional statistics. The Padres owed him about $54 million through 2019.
Olivera has not played since April 11 because he’s serving an 82-game suspension for violating MLB’s Domestic Violence policy. Atlanta owes him about $29 million through the 2020 season. San Diego is expected to designate Olivera for assignment when he is eligible to play again on August 1, basically eating his contract. All-in-all the Padres are expected to save in excess of $20 million in the transaction.
The Padres don't have many big-name players left, something Padres General Manager A.J. Preller is aware of. But he hopes building a better overall product will be better than having a few household names.
"Matt Kemp is a name that's recognizable and he's done a lot of good things in the game and will continue to do that," said Preller, "but I think our goal and the purpose behind the deal is to get a group of guys together and a group of guys the fans are going to enjoy watching every single night and a team that's at the top of the standings."
The move also clears space in the outfield for the Padres to promote another of their prospects. Jabari Blash, who made the team out of Spring Training, will return from El Paso and be in the starting lineup on Sunday afternoon against the Reds.
Kemp’s time in San Diego was short but certainly not boring. The former Dodgers All-Star was the cornerstone piece in the wild 2014 off-season where Padres General Manager A.J. Preller completely restructured the franchise. Kemp is the one who gave Preller the nickname “Rock Star G.M.” after A.J. swung trades for him, Justin Upton, Wil Myers and Derek Norris.
Kemp, though, did not lead the Padres back to the playoffs like many fans had hoped. He leaves after hitting 46 home runs and driving in 169 runs in just 254 games.
Between Tuesday and Saturday Preller traded Kemp, Upton (to the Blue Jays), and starting pitchers Andrew Cashner and Colin Rea (to the Marlins).