After being released by the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday, is Matt Kemp’s career effectively over?
With apparent eye on being a contender this year, the Cincinnati Reds acquired outfielders Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp as well as pitcher Alex Wood from the Los Angeles Dodgers in a trade. But Wood hasn’t pitched yet due to an injury, and both Puig and Kemp have not produced.
Kemp has not played since April 21 due to a rib injury, and on Saturday the Reds surprisingly just cut bait released him. The 34-year old hits the open market with a .200/.210/.283 slash-line, one home run, five RBI, 19 strikeouts and one walk over 62 plate appearances this season.
It’s unclear when Kemp will be ready to play again. He’s in the final year of an eight-year, $160 million contract, with the Los Angeles Dodgers ($3.5 million) and San Diego Padres ($2.5 million) paying some of his $21.75 million salary with the Reds on the hook for the rest. If he signs with another team for the league minimum, he would get all of what’s left of that initial money.
Kemp had a resurgence first half last year for the Dodgers, with a .310/.352/.522 slash-line, 15 home runs and 60 RBI before the All-Star break. But he faded badly after that, with a .255/.313/.406 slash-line, six home runs and 25 RBI over the rest of the season.
Kemp posted a -0.9 bWAR during his limited sample with the Reds this season. But if his outfield usage could be limited, he could deliver some value with his bat (.812 OPS against right-handed pitching in 2018, with an .828 OPS against left-handers as well). That points to an American League team as the best fit, where Kemp could DH, and the injury-marred New York Yankees may have to consider signing him.
But with multiple years of decline, and injuries that have paralleled that drop-off, Kemp may have no interest in hanging on as a DH/pinch hitter type from here on out this season. He’ll get paid the balance of his $21.75 million whether he plays more or not, and he will struggle to find suitors on open market next winter. So as strange as it may seem, there’s definitely a chance we’ve already seen the last of Kemp as a player.