COMMENTARY | General Manager Frank Wren had his turn. But after the Atlanta Braves were bounced out of the MLB playoffs early for the second straight season, it's about time I started manning the controls of Atlanta's front office to try and correct some of the more egregious mistakes Wren has made recently.
Now, I would be remiss if I did not shine a quick spotlight on the work Wren and his team did in building a sustainable farm system to allow the Braves to compete long into the future.
That is why I decided to keep Wren on board as an executive overseeing player development. However, the red phone in his (now my) office that rang anytime a new trade was coming across the wire, only I have access to that little piece of equipment now.
My first order of business: Undo the calamity that is the four years and $59.8 million still owed to B.J. Upton. Before the start of the 2013 season, Wren decided Michael Bourn was simply asking for too much money, so he naturally decided to back up the Brinks truck to Upton's house. The player given the richest contract in franchise history ended up hitting .184 with nine home runs and 151 strikeouts in his first season with Atlanta.
Some may find my first proposal a little risky, but Wren left me with little options. If fans want to see the name Upton scrolled against the back of someone else's uniform next season, acquiring Matt Kemp from the Los Angeles Dodgers may be the best way to do it.
I have a fiduciary responsibility now that I am the man in charge of Atlanta's payroll ledgers. That being said: Go big or go home!
The Dodgers are rumored to be putting Kemp and Andre Ethier on the trading block this offseason. The biggest reason they are willing to put their former MVP candidate on the block is because he is owed $130 million through the 2019 season and is now a part of a crowded L.A. outfield.
The legal implications of this deal will have to be worked out by the people in accounting sitting in dark rooms crunching numbers all day, but the gist is that L.A. is going to have to eat some of that contract if it wants to get out from under a salary approaching the GDP of a small country.
Upton will be making $14 million in 2014, and his salary will increase by $1 million per season until 2017. Kemp will stand to make an average of $21.5 million over the next six seasons. If we can get L.A. to eat enough off that deal to bring it back down into the $17 million range, I think this is trade that would make us both happy. The Dodgers get to downgrade to a smaller deal they can clear in only four years while we can remove a rather large black hole in our lineup.
Those who think the Dodgers would be unwilling to pay any of Kemp's deal need to only look to this past trading deadline to see the realities of player contracts. The Chicago Cubs dealt Alfonso Soriano to the New York Yankees to get rid of the $24 million and change they would have to pay him in 2014. To make the Yankees willing to deal, the Cubs had to eat $17.7 million of Soriano's contract. I may actually be underselling how much of a discount L.A. would be willing to give.
Why Atlanta Wants This Deal
Kemp is not just a good player; he was one of the top players in all of baseball before an ankle injury cost him the majority of the 2013 season. Upton is a career .248 hitter, yet he was still given the richest deal in Atlanta history.
Kemp is a career .293 hitter, and, in 2011, he finished second to disgraced Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun in the MVP race when he belted 39 home runs, stole 40 bases and hit .324.
Even in a season in which he was playing with a bum wheel, Kemp still managed to hit .270. With two healthy ankles, Upton hasn't hit higher than .270 since 2008.
This is a deal made in MLB trade heaven. They each play the same position, have contracts relatively similar, and are only 33 days apart in age.
Kemp would be forced to pass an extensive physical before we would pull out our ink quill to sign on the dotted line, but if he is able to come back strong, the Braves would be fools not to kick the tires on a possible trade.
Anthony Schreiber is a freelance sportswriter who has been following the Atlanta Braves for over 20 years. He has penned articles for a variety of online publications and magazines.
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