The Cincinnati Reds pulled the trigger on a big trade, but one of the pieces seems a bit out of place. Will Matt Kemp be part of the Reds to start 2019?
On Friday, the Cincinnati Reds traded Homer Bailey, Jeter Downs, and Josiah Gray to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Alex Wood, Kyle Farmer, and cash considerations. While Kemp could be a nice addition for the 2019 season, the Reds now have an excessive number of corner outfielders. Could Kemp be on the move again this offseason?
Cincinnati’s first priority this offseason was to upgrade the pitching staff, and that started with the addition of new pitching coach Derek Johnson. During the Winter Meetings, the Reds made a trade for Tanner Roark. Just yesterday, Alex Wood joined the team and the Reds now appear to have an improved starting rotation.
However, if the Reds truly want to compete with the likes of the Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago Cubs, and St. Louis Cardinals next season, they likely need another quality starting pitcher. It seems unlikely that Dick Willams and company would offer a contract to Dallas Keuchel, so a more likely scenario is that Cincinnati makes another big trade.
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The Reds have been rumored to be after Sonny Gray of the New York Yankees, but Gray is likely no better than a No. 3 starter at best on a winning team. Even that might be pushing it. Cincinnati has also been in discussions with the Cleveland Indians about their ace Corey Kluber.
The latest report had the Indians interested in Reds’ prospect Taylor Trammell, who is currently ranked No. 2 in Cincinnati’s farm system. It’s well known that the Indians are looking to improve their outfield. Could Matt Kemp, and his $21.5M salary be part of trade to Cleveland in order for the Reds to land Kluber?
Kemp experienced a resurgence last season in Los Angeles that saw him get a spot on the NL’s All-Star roster, so it’s not out of the realm of possibilities for him to remain on the Reds heading into next season. However, with players like Puig, Phillip Ervin, Scott Schebler, Jesse Winker, and possibly Nick Senzel, the outfield is getting very crowded, very quickly.
Personally, I see Kemp filling the role of the fourth outfielder and pinch hitter for the Cincinnati Reds next season with the way the roster is currently constructed. While the Reds have yet to find an actual centerfielder after non-tendering Billy Hamilton this offseason, both Schebler and Puig are capable of playing the position, especially in Great American Ball Park.
Yesterday’s trade provided the Cincinnati Reds with a slight upgrade in their rotation, and potentially a big upgrade in their lineup. But, if the Reds really want to make 2019 a season to remember, they still have work to do. Reds President of Baseball Operations Dick Williams said as much via Reds.com last night:
"“We’re not done. “We still want to get better. We want to improve the club as much as we can. And really anywhere on the diamond is open for discussion. I would say pitching is still an area that we’ll continue to look closely at. Probably the area of most focus, but it could be anywhere on the diamond.”"
If the Reds keep Kemp this season, he becomes a free agent in 2020, so his salary comes off the books. While it may seem like a lot of money to be paying a fourth outfielder, Kemp could contribute more than most fans think. He did .290 last season with 21 homers and 85 RBIs. Not too shabby.
So, would the Reds really pay Kemp $21.5M to be a utility outfielder? Well, they paid Homer Bailey $21M last season for only one win. Maybe the ball club is content to keep Kemp on the roster, however, don’t rule out Cincinnati trading him again if it benefits the Reds for next season.