In what seems to be a yearly tradition the Los Angeles Dodgers have made a blockbuster trade. Friday, they shipped Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig, Alex Wood, Kyle Farmer and $7 million dollars to the Reds for Homer Bailey and prospects Josiah Gray and Jeter Downs.
The Dodgers confirmed the deal on Twitter:
The Los Angeles Dodgers today acquired minor league IF Jeter Downs, minor league RHP Josiah Gray and RHP Homer Bailey from the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for C/IF Kyle Farmer, outfielders Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig, LHP Alex Wood and cash considerations.
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) December 21, 2018
Matt Kemp Yasiel Puig Alex Wood Traded to Reds
Kemp’s return to Los Angeles lasted only one season. It was just last off-season that the Dodgers acquired him from the Atlanta Braves for Adrian Gonzalez, Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir, and Charlie Culberson. Kemp enjoyed a nice rebound campaign with the Dodgers while shedding the various salaries of Gonzalez, McCarthy and Kazmir got the Dodgers under the luxury tax.
The Dodgers Return
Both pitcher Josiah Gray and infielder Jeter Downs are legitimate prospects. Gray is an arm to dream on, but the 2018 draftee has impressed in his limited professional showing, flashing both good stuff and decent command. He struck out 59 in only 52.1 innings and walked only 17 with a fastball that touches 97 mph. Middle infielder Jeter Downs has flashed both solid pop for his position with a .145 iso and good command of the strike zone as well. His walk rate has hovered around 10% as a pro, while his strikeout rate has remained below 20%.
In addition to the prospects, there is a major financial component to this trade. The Dodger also received Homer Bailey. His salary is virtually equal to Kemp’s, slightly higher in actual cash, slightly lower for luxury tax purposes. As the Dodgers are expected to buy him out, those two salaries are a wash. By including Yasiel Puig and Alex Wood, the Dodgers project to save roughly $20 million in arbitration salaries, potentially freeing up payroll for a major expenditure or simply helping them to remain under the luxury tax.
The Reds Return
While the Dodgers focused on savings and the future, the Reds focused on putting a better team on the field in 2019. While being shielded from southpaws, Puig somewhat quietly posted his best wRC+ (123) since 2014. His cannon arm and power make for a fun fit in the friendly confines of Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark. Though he faded a bit after a hot start, Kemp’s wRC+ of 122 nearly matched Puig’s, and while he is not even close to the outfielder he once was, his bat is still potent enough to matter. Added to an outfield mix of Jesse Winker and Scott Schebler, both Puig and Kemp project for a fair amount of playing time with the platoon advantage. Additionally, both project as protection for the long-awaited arrival of prospect Nick Senzel who will presumably play centerfield between them.
Alex Wood couldn’t duplicate his ace-like 2017 form but still turned in a very strong 2018 season. His 3.68 ERA and 3.72 xFIP represent a strong addition to a Reds’ rotation that has noticeably struggled in recent years. Additionally, his general ability to prevent home runs, with a career rate of 0.76 home runs per nine innings, represents a great fit in a Cincinnati stadium that is often thought of as a launching pad.
The End Result
The Dodgers made another canny trade, freeing up money to chase yet another superstar, or to somehow field a roster of stars without paying the luxury tax. Both Jeter Downs and Josiah Gray represent intriguing additions to the Dodgers farm system.
The Reds return is more tangible. Joey Votto isn’t getting any younger but remains one of baseball’s most disciplined hitters. Votto, along with Eugenio Suarez and Scooter Gennett and presumably Nick Senzel, form an interesting core group that Puig and Kemp should make more dangerous. Wood projects to add solid or better innings to a rotation in dire need of them. In the end, the Dodgers did what the Dodgers do, and may well be playing chess while everyone else is playing checkers, but the Reds should be well-pleased with this deal. At the end of the day, the 2019 Dodgers are (probably only temporarily) worse as a result, but the 2019 Reds are most definitely better.
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