John Coppolella caught the fan base off guard when he acquired a power-hitting prospect last week for a couple reclamation projects. He continued this trend of acquiring power bats by going out and acquiring Matt Kemp for Hector Olivera.
Last year’s Hector Olivera trade was really the only transaction Coppolella made that drew significant criticism. The team gave up Alex Wood, Jose Peraza, Jim Johnson, Bronson Arroyo and Luis Avilan as part of a three-team trade that saw them acquire Olivera, Paco Rodriguez, Zach Bird, and a competitive balance draft pick.
Olivera struggled, and his domestic violence incident at the team hotel in April did not help matters for him. The team was likely to cut ties with Olivera and eat the money. He did not prove himself as an MLB-ready player, and he was a PR nightmare for a team that is trying to fill seats.
Instead of just straight up eating the money, Coppy did the impossible: he found a suitor for Olivera. To offset the deal financially for the Padres, the Braves took Matt Kemp, who is a good player. He is batting .262 with 23 home runs and 69 RBI on the season. Kemp is no perfect player. He doesn’t play stellar defense, but that is offset by having the presence of Ender Inciarte in center field. His on-base percentage is lower than usual this season. However, as evidenced by the stat line, Kemp immediately becomes the second-best offensive player on the team.
Between the Dodgers still paying Kemp some of his deal, the Padres sending $10-12 million, and considering Olivera’s contract was hours away from being dead money, Kemp’s $21.8 million per year he is owed through 2020 is only going to cost the Braves $8.5 million per year. Locking up that type of production at that rate is great for the Braves going forward. Wil Myers was having a breakout season with Kemp hitting behind him, and he offers Freddie Freeman the protection he hasn’t had in this lineup since the 2014 season.
This trade makes the Braves better going forward, and they get a great player who is still just 31. Many have been quick to criticize Kemp but he is better than anything the Braves have. This addresses a need the Braves have going forward. They can now explore options at the hot corner as well as behind the plate.
Coppy has done a great job as GM, and while the Hector Olivera trade was a mistake, he has more than made up for it. You can now look at the two deals as one big mega trade that saw the Braves give up Alex Wood, Jose Peraza, Luis Avilan, Bronson Arroyo and Jim Johnson for Matt Kemp, Paco Rodriguez, Joey Wentz and Zach Bird.
Coppy has earned the trust of this fanbase.