Dodgers bring back Matt Kemp in stunning five-player trade with Braves

The Braves traded Matt Kemp back to the Dodgers on Saturday. (AP)
The Braves traded Matt Kemp back to the Dodgers on Saturday. (AP)

The Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves completed a stunning five-player trade on Saturday headlined by Matt Kemp’s return to Los Angeles.

According to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, the Dodgers acquired Kemp in a 4-for-1 deal that saw Adrian Gonzalez, Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy and Charlie Culberson traded to the Braves, along with cash considerations. Gonzalez was reportedly designated for assignment by Atlanta after the deal was completed.

Kemp last played for the Dodgers in 2014 and was actually still on the team’s payroll before Saturday’s trade. He has two years and over $43 million remaining on the seven-year, $160 million deal that he signed with Los Angeles prior to the 2013 season. When Kemp was traded to San Diego in 2014, the Dodgers agreed to cover $3.5 million on his salary every season through 2019. The Padres pay him $2.5 million per season per their trade agreement with Atlanta in 2016.

Ironically, the Dodgers motivation for bringing Kemp back is to save money against the luxury tax. Getting under the luxury tax threshold has been one of the Dodgers biggest goals this offseason, and this trade will help that effort significantly.

What role Kemp might have in Los Angeles is unknown. It’s possible he doesn’t even make it to opening day with them if the Dodgers can find another team willing to take on his contract. When healthy, Kemp has remained productive at the plate. He’s hit 54 home runs in 271 games over the last two seasons. But the contract is still excessive given his decline in other areas.

The trade further cements Cody Bellinger as the Dodgers first baseman. Los Angeles also opened up three spots on the 40-man roster.

On the Braves side, this is all about salary relief for them as well. This deal won’t provide much relief initially, but it does get Kemp’s contract off the books right away. With the incoming big money contracts — Gonzalez ($22 million), Kazmir ($15 million) and McCarthy ($12 million) — all expiring after the 2018 season, it puts them in better position to be competitive in a loaded free agent market.

The trade also opens up an outfield spot for Atlanta’s top prospect, Ronald Acuna. The 19-year-old was named the No. 1 prospect during the Arizona Fall League and could be ready to make his mark in 2018.

It’s a stunning trade in that it came completely out of left field on a Saturday afternoon. But all things considered, it figures to benefit both teams in the short and long term even if the players involved contribute nothing to their new teams.

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