Braves need Kemp move to pay off (because, yes, they’re paying a lot)

Atlanta Braves outfielder Matt Kemp gives an autograph before a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2016, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Atlanta Braves outfielder Matt Kemp gives an autograph before a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2016, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

In a season where even a 2-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies seems to send starving fans into a euphoric state, it’s not surprising that a trade for veteran outfielder Matt Kemp — whose last two employers paid to get rid of him — is being hailed by some as a major moment in this Braves’ rebuilding project.

But then this comes at a time when the Hawks have decided to bank their future on Dwight Howard and the Falcons hope 36-year-old Dwight Freeney can fix their pass rushSo consider it Atlanta’s summer of … hope?

Say this for Kemp. He’s not the almost-MVP he played like in 2011 but he still has some power and, after acknowledging that his reputationi had suffered some dings in recent seasons for a questionable attitude, he is going to great lengths to ingratiate himself to the Braves’ tormented fan base. He wrote recently in The Players Tribune about growing up a Braves fan in Oklahoma and reiterated Tuesday that walking into the home clubhouse at Turner Field and putting on the Braves’ hat and jersey was “like a dream come true.”

New Braves outfielder Matt Kemp meets with media members before Thursday's game against Pittsburgh. (Jeff Schultz/jschultz@ajc.com)

New Braves outfielder Matt Kemp meets with media members before Tuesday’s game against Pittsburgh. (Jeff Schultz/jschultz@ajc.com)

Seldom do “dream come true” and “37-68” intersect for a team in the same season but Kemp is looking for a new beginning (again) and the Braves are grasping for any positive news story possible. After seeing Kemp’s blog go viral the other day, the marketing department decided to have a “Matt Kemp 2-Day Flash Sale.” Playing off Kemp’s uniform No. 27, the Braves were offering two outfield seats for $7 any game of the Braves-Pittsburgh series through Thursday.

When a team ranks 25th in major league attendance, it will pretty much try anything (although Hector Olivera Night, where a fan could get it for $1.14, matching his Gwinnett batting average, never materialized).

Kemp says he wants baseball to be fun again. Somehow, things got sideways a bit after consecutive All-Star seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers (2011-12), after which he signed an eight-year, $160 million contract. He also dated Rihanna.

But Kemp wrote in a remarkably candid part of his blog on The Players Tribune:

“After taking some time to reflect on my career, and the ups and downs I’ve experienced since my MVP-caliber season in 2011, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I had begun to lose some of my love for the game. In so many ways, I got sidetracked from what I loved most about playing the game of baseball — having fun. I let a big contract, the Hollywood lifestyle, injuries and bad relationships tarnish the reputation I had worked so hard to establish. Sadly, I gained a reputation for being selfish, lazy and a bad teammate. While I may not agree with all the criticism I received in the past few years —and while I believe that a lot of it was unmerited — I take full responsibility for my shortcomings.”

Kemp didn’t quite say he misquoted himself Tuesday when he met the Atlanta media. But he wasn’t nearly as forthcoming.

• On being affected by the big contract, as seemingly acknowledged in the aforementioned excerpt: “No, the contract didn’t affect me. Just injuries. Sometimes when you get injured it’s hard to get back to where you need to be.”

• On criticism: “It’s just stuff that’s out there. It’s not stuff that I all agree with. But (with) stuff that’s out there, I don’t want people to wonder about me as a person. I’m here to be a good teammate and to help lead these guys in the right direction and I’m excited about this new journey.”

• But didn’t you acknowledge some criticism was warranted? “I’m just going to take it. You have to take it. It is what it is.”

OK. Moving on.

Kemp went 0-for-4 with a walk in his Braves’ debut, striking out to end a 5-3 loss to Pittsburgh. He went 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position.

Before the game, Kemp said baseball ceased being fun at times but he attributed most of that to injuries (hips, shoulder, ankle, hamstring, almost everything in between).

“It’s not fun being on the DL or playing with an injury. I don’t think people understand what baseball players go through,” he said. “They might be hurt or there might be personal problems. But we’re all human.”

The Braves and San Diego swapped expensive mistakes. But at least Kemp is a proven hitter, unlike Hector Olivera, and he’s not facing criminal charges, also unlike Olivera.

The Braves’ front office has tried to spin the numbers but here’s all you need to know: The Braves are paying Kemp $54 million of Kemp’s $64.5 million in salaries from 2017 to 2019. If you don’t get that, go back and read between the lines of Coppy-speak.

That means Kemp needs to be provide some highlights amid all of the gloom of 2016 — and potentially more next season.

EARLIER: Signing Dwight Freeney was right move for Falcons (yes, even at 36)

EARLIER: Kirby Smart says he’s putting Jonathan Ledbetter’s recovery over football

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13 comments
Paul R Denault
Paul R Denault

Yeah, the good old days when the highest paid player was Mickey Mantle making $100,000 a year, and many players had to work other jobs during the off season. Wouldn't it be nice.

DrTruth
DrTruth

As a long time Braves Fan, the really disturbing part of this entire episode is this.....Coppy should be using his "$8.5 Million/yr" Jedi Mind Trick on Hart in order to get him to sign off on the Olivera for Kemp trade, and it should never leave Hart's office.


IMO, it's a strategic mistake for Coppy to intentionally mislead and confuse Braves Fans about the TRUE cost of the acquisition of Kemp and his Top 25 Active MLB Players contract he brings with him.  It's usually not a good idea to deceive the very Fans you are trying to get to buy into your Grand Design if you want them to trust you.


There are still many Fans that believe the Braves are paying Kemp $8.5 Million/yr.

Paul R Denault
Paul R Denault

MrTruth, I stand corrected. San Diego is now responsible for Olivera's $28.5 owed him over the next 4 years. Kemp's salary is $21.5 per year from 2017 through 2019 (the Padres will give the Braves $10.5 million as part of the trade. This adjusts the Braves portion of Kemp's salary to $54 million or $18 million for each of the next 3 years. However, this is still $9.5 million/yr more than Coppy's spin on the actual Braves' compensation of $8.5 million/year to acquire Kemp. Sorry for the confusion in my earlier post.

DrTruth
DrTruth

@Paul R Denault @Paul R Denault  Hey, it isn't your fault.  They designed it to be confusing.

Remember the good old days when the Braves would trade a player and they would issue a release that said, "The Braves acquired Matt Kemp in a trade with the Padres.  They have assumed Kemp's contract and will pay him $18 Million per year for the next 3 years."

DrTruth
DrTruth

@Paul R Denault No. Please delete this.  It just makes things confusing again.  The Padres took the $28.5 Million contract when they took Olivera.  It is 100% their responsibility now to decide if they want to put him in the minors for a year or two or until he "might" figure out how to hit a baseball and then decide what to do next.  There were reports that they already DFA'd him before his plane even landed in SD, just taking the loss.


All they did was switch players & contracts.  That's it.


Before the trade:

ATL has Olivera for 4 years at $28.5 Million

SD has Kemp for 3 years at $54 Million


After the trade:

SD has Olivera for 4 years at $28.5 Million

ATL has Kemp for 3 years at $54 Million


Really, this is all that happened in this trade.

Starksy
Starksy

But...Joe Simpson and Chip Caray were so darn excited when they interviewed Coppy about the trade. They were practically in tears. We know how professional and unbiased they are so I'm thinking Kemp will turn this franchise around.

DrTruth
DrTruth

@Starksy They either got Punk'd by Hart & Coppy and couldn't see through the smokescreen while trying to do their jobs or they really understood how much financial risk the front office just turned the Olivera mistake into by creating this Kempenstein Monster and decided to protect their paychecks by playing along with the unabashed Coppy Celebration in the booth.

Donald_01
Donald_01

You also need to make certain you do not lose the fact that all those young players traded for the "Loser" are now traded for Kemp.  The argument then was he was the future of the franchise and would greatly solve our power needs.  Oops!!  I hear that "Curly Shuffle" starting to play.

patriotdog
patriotdog

Coppy is Wren Lite. Still can't believe the double speak and at times condescension that spews from him. When Hart leaves, the franchise is in trouble.

TideDawg
TideDawg

Well, Kemp had every opportunity to be a hero tonight but even good hitters fail 2 out of every 3 at bats.

colt07
colt07

@TideDawg  Let's hope he just starts to make contact. K's don't help any team.

DrTruth
DrTruth

@colt07 @colt07  I'm not a fan of this deal.  But I was pulling for the guy last night.  He had TWO prime opportunities in his first game to make a splash and be the hero.  Sometimes Real Life doesn't have the storybook ending every time.  Fortunately Kemp will have many opportunities to fulfill his childhood dream between now & Oct.  I mean, all he really has to do is smack a HR every 5 games or so on a team that really has nothing else to play for....It's his time to shine in the spotlight.

DawgNole
DawgNole

Good comparison/analogy with Howard and Freeney.

Let's hope ATL's "summer of hope" pays dividends.