The Los Angeles Dodgers won 94 games last season, repeated as NL West champions but again fell short of winning, much less reaching the World Series. As a result, the front office underwent an overhaul with Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi now at the helm.
As expected, change reached the Dodgers’ roster with Friedman and Zaidi forgoing much sleep in favor of retooling the makeup of the team. In recent weeks, the Dodgers paid players to join other teams, paid Brian Wilson to not pitch for them in 2015 and their trades included sending away fan favorites.
Dee Gordon exploded onto the scene in 2014, earned a trip to his first All-Star Game and finished with an MLB-best 64 stolen bases and 12 triples. Whether Gordon’s season was an outlier or a sign of what lies ahead, some of the sting that came with him no longer being with the Dodgers was washed away by Howie Kendrick’s arrival.
However, the same can’t be said for Matt Kemp. In the eyes of many, he was traded away for a catcher with a checkered past and a 36-year-old shortstop in Jimmy Rollins, who was acquired in exchange for two prospects, one of which the Dodgers received from the San Diego Padres.
When asked if he was hesitant to trade Kemp given his popularity, Friedman said, “Sure. I mean he was a really popular player because of how gifted he is offensively. We get it. I have a lot of respect for what he can do in the batter’s box.”
Kemp missed Spring Training while recovering from ankle surgery and essentially used the first half of last season to work through some issues and refine his swing. It can also be presumed he accepted a move to right field and overall health improved after the All-Star break.
Although the Dodgers worked to trade Kemp, even sending $32 million to offset some of the remaining salary, his talent and production isn’t lost on Friedman. “Obviously, an incredibly gifted offensive player,” he said.
“I think the whole world saw what he’s capable of in the second half of the season. Again, this just gets back to us doing everything we could to mold our roster into a highly functioning baseball team as opposed to a collection of talent.”
In regards to the long road traveled before the trade was finalized, which included the leaking of Kemp’s medical records, Friedman maintained there wasn’t cause for concern and believes both teams were satisfied in the end.
“Knowing Matt and our medical people who obviously know him incredibly well, I really wasn’t that worried,” Friedman said. “It may have taken a little bit longer to play out than I would have liked personally, but such is life. The Padres obviously had a lot going on. From a physical standpoint, we weren’t worried.”
As for the backlash Friedman and the Dodgers will come under if the Kemp trade doesn’t pan out in their favor, Friedman responded with, “Not any more than we would hate ourselves.”