Picture this—it’s Saturday, October 4th, 2014. The Dodgers are tied with the St. Louis Cardinals 2-2 heading into the bottom of the 8th, in the second game of the National League Division Series. Matt Kemp, one of the most well-known Dodgers of this century, is walking to the plate. J.P. Howell is in the dugout, well aware of the two runs he’s given up, simultaneously reducing the Dodgers lead to 0. On a 2-1 count, three pitches into Pat Neshek’s appearance in the game, Kemp launches a monster home run to deep left field, right next to the Dodgers’ bullpen.
The Dodgers would go on to lose the series three games to one, but in that moment, the future did not matter because, in that moment, the Dodgers would win Game 2. In that moment, Matt Kemp would be crowned a hero.
Fast-forward to November of 2017. Over three years have passed since Kemp hit that game-winning home run. He plays for the Atlanta Braves, the second team outside of Los Angeles that he has played for since the 2014 postseason. Kemp is no longer a Dodger, and the Dodgers have been re-defined in the process. They made it to the World Series. They are the reigning National League Champs. The two most recent NL ROTYs play shortstop and first for the organization iconically nicknamed “This Team!”
The Dodgers are a radically different team than they were three years ago. They’re different, but on December 16, 2017, a piece of that 2014 postseason run returned to Los Angeles.
Matt Kemp became a Dodger again.
It’s not 2014, though. Kemp is not the player he used to be. He’s good, really good, and will hit his stride with a major league team in 2018. But there’s no guarantee that that team will be the Dodgers.
For the past month, fans have debated what Andrew Friedman and the management crew should do. Here are the pros and cons of trading Matt Kemp prior to the 2018 season.
PRO: Frees up payroll. Said payroll could be used to re-sign Yu Darvish or take on the contract of another pitcher.
CON: Dodgers lose a 2x Gold Glove and a 2x Silver Slugger winner, regardless of what they get in return.
PRO: The Dodgers could get legitimate talent back from wherever Kemp is traded. Either prospects who will help the team in a year or players who could help now.
CON: The trade may come back to haunt the Dodgers unless he’s sent to an American League team, e.g. a team that could use a power bat (like the Red Sox or the Rangers).
PRO: Baseball can be a very superstitious game, and there may be a shadow hanging over the Dodgers, reminding fans of the World Series that almost was in 2013, should Kemp stay in L.A.
CON: Matt Kemp is a Dodger, and trading him virtually guarantees that the chapter of his career that’s set in Los Angeles is done for good.
Here’s my opinion; I am an incredibly superstitious baseball fan. I have a lucky baseball that I was holding in my hand when Kershaw got the save in Game 5 of the 2016 NLDS, and I was holding it when the Dodgers won the pennant. Of all the Dodger shirts I own, the one that says PEDERSON on the back is my favorite because the Dodgers always seem to do great things when I wear it. The World Series shirt I wore as L.A. lost Game 7 is still hanging in my closet, untouched since November 1st.
I am one of those in favor of trading Matt Kemp. I think that the Dodgers have other pressing needs than the outfield, and trading Matt Kemp could help the team fill those needs. Chalk it up to my unwavering superstitions surrounding this game, but the Dodgers are on a really good path here, and keeping Kemp on the roster may, completely unintentionally, bring back the postseason ghosts of the early part of the 2010s.
Something is going to happen; and soon. Either Kemp is going to get traded, or he’s going to charge into spring training and remind fans why he’s worth every single moment of adoration he received while wearing Dodger Blue.
I have my doubts about keeping Kemp on the roster. I have my superstitions and I have my questions, but I want to be proven wrong. When it comes to this game, nine times out of ten, being proven wrong is a good thing.
I hope I am.
(FOLLOW SARAH ON TWITTER: @SARAHMANINGER)