Recently acquired power hitting outfielder Matt Kemp still possess a dangerous bat. However, at this stage of his career, he would be best served finishing his playing days in the American League, not with the Cincinnati Reds.
The Cincinnati Reds outfield has undergone a serious makeover this offseason. Beginning with the decision to non-tender Billy Hamilton in late November and the acquisitions of Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp in a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers. It’s time, however, to consider moving Kemp once again, as his abilities at this stage of his career, are better suited for an American League team.
The Cincinnati Reds front office has not shied away from making bold moves this offseason. Now with the team’s No. 1 prospect Nick Senzel getting the opportunity to win the center field job, suddenly the club is faced with a potential surplus of corner outfielders.
Currently, the Reds 40-man roster features only one player, Jose Siri, who is a natural center fielder. The 23-year-old Siri has yet to play above Double-A and the chances of him making the roster are almost nonexistent. Both Scott Schebler and Phillip Ervin have experience in center, but neither is an ideal everyday option. Add Jesse Winker to the aforementioned Kemp and Puig and the Reds probably have one more corner outfielder than they need.
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That’s why a new team for Matt Kemp makes the most sense. The 34-year-old is in the final year of a deal that will pay him over $21 million for the 2019 season. Given the direction the Cincinnati Reds are heading, it would be virtually impossible to envision Kemp completing the upcoming season with the club and having an opportunity to return the following season.
Kemp, a right-handed hitting slugger, continues to be a valuable offensive asset, even in his 13th MLB season. Last year he slashed .290/.338/.481 with an impressive 120 OPS+, while earning his third All-Star team selection. Along with 21 home runs, there’s little doubt Kemp still swings a mean stick. Also, despite playing 13 years in the majors he has remained surprisingly durable. Kemp has appeared in at least 146 games in four of the past five seasons.
However, the offensive numbers don’t tell Kemp’s full story. To the say the 2-time Gold Glove winner has become a defensive liability would be an understatement. Regardless of which defensive metrics you subscribe to, Kemp rates poorly as a defender.
Playing the corner outfield positions throughout the 2018 season he compiled a -9 defensive runs saved. For comparisons sake, Adam Duvall was a +17 defensive runs saved defender while splitting time last year between the Cincinnati Reds and Atlanta Braves.
Gone are also the days in which Kemp was a threat on the basepaths. Over the course of his career, Kemp has stolen more than 30 bases in a season three times. However, he has swiped 1 base in the previous three years and did not have a single stolen base attempt during the 2018 campaign. Regardless of his impressive numbers at the plate in 2018, he was only able to accumulate a 1.1 bWAR as a result of his eroding defensive and base running skills.
Being a one-dimensional player, specifically offensive, Kemp would be a quality DH in the American League. Kemp could be a perfect fit for a team with World Championship aspirations. One club that immediately springs to mind is the Houston Astros. Currently, 28-year-old Tyler White projects to be the team’s DH. Over 580 career plate appearance, White has slashed .248/.319/.458 with 23 home runs. Obviously, Kemp would be a major upgrade despite his $21 million dollar price tag.
While the thought of Matt Kemp hitting at GABP is enticing, the Reds would be better served with Yasiel Puig and Jesse Winker as their corner outfielders. Granted the play of Nick Senzel in center field during Spring Training will dictate any potential moves, it might be wise for the Cincinnati Reds front office to have Astros GM Jeff Luhnow on speed dial.