Matt Kemp Is Available; Padres Playing Coy

The Padres were rumored to be shopping outfielder Matt Kemp, and the San Diego newspaper quickly chimed in to clarify that it was a far more passive process than the rumor had made it sound.  

The thing is, I don't really care how aggressively the Padres are shopping Matt Kemp.  The point is they'd be willing to move him in the right deal, and no matter how they posture, their leverage is what it is.  ZiPs and the initial over / unders released by a few oddsmakers confirm what anybody who pays attention would surmise -- the Padres are almost certainly going to be battling the Rockies for 4th place next year.  Both ZiPs and the initial O/Us have the Padres pegged at 74 wins.  Even if you're optimistic on the Padres' hopes, it's hard to make the argument that they're ahead of any of the troika of Arizona / L.A. / San Francisco, let alone more than one of them.

What's more, the Wild Card is hardly this easily-attainable consolation prize in the National League.  Even if you think, "Hey I think the Padres will get surprise performances from Player X, Y, Z and win 85 games!" you're not only extremely optimistic, but that will still likely leave them well out of the playoffs.  After all, the Cubs won 97 games and didn't even get to host the freaking Wild Card Game.  Part of this is because teams like St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago are really good, and part of it is because the NL is where all of the teams that are dead on arrival happen to be playing.  Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Philly, and Colorado are all waving a white flag before the season starts.  San Diego and Miami are only marginally ahead of that tier, wherein they would need their absolute best case scenario to manifest in order to even be competitive.  The result is a polarized league, where massive win totals need to be pillaged from the cellar dwellers in order to keep up.

So the Padres can play hard to get, but Kemp does not fit with any realistic competitive window that they can hope to open in the next few years, and dealing him (and Shields for that matter) may be what they need to do to bring that window closer.

Matt Kemp is an actual difference maker with the bat.  He's no longer the MVP-caliber player he once was, thanks to age and several lower body injuries, and he can't play solid center field like he used to.  However, as he regained his footing and got healthy again over the course of 2015, his bat woke up.  In the second half of the season, Kemp hit .286/.339/.528 despite playing in PetCo and going up against some of the scary environments / opponents in the NL West. 

Even though they still foresee Kemp playing in San Diego for 2016, PECOTA projects .278/.339/.487 next year, Steamer forecasts a .269/.325/.451 line, and ZiPs predicts .261/.317/.421.  One imagines those numbers would get a healthy shot in the arm if he were to leave one of the worst hitting environments on earth.  Between his injuries and his exile in Baseball's Forgotten Realm, it's easy to forget that Kemp very recently possessed an elite bat, and that bat is showing signs of waking back up.  Remember, he is less than a year older the Yoenis Cespedes, and he's younger than Alex Gordon.

I don't care to make specific trade proposals, as the composition of such deals would be heavily dependent on how the two teams decided to divide up payment on the remainder of Kemp's deal.  Then there's the impossible task of determining how each organization values which prospects, etc. 

I will say that it seems like a promising option after having struck out on most of the other free agent bats on the market.  U.S. Cellular Field has a much smaller outfield than PetCo, and Kemp would have the benefit of working with Herm Schneider as well as actually playing next to a real center fielder instead of the Trio Of Mediocre Corner Outfielders the Padres tried in 2015. 

Kemp isn't the ideal solution in right, but he would be very credible option, and would keep nudging the team's outcomes closer and closer to playoff-caliber.

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