As the San Diego Padres were preparing to introduce Matt Kemp as their new star attraction Friday, Andrew Friedman explained the Dodgers’ polarizing decision to trade the two-time All-Star.
The Dodgers’ president of baseball operations laughed when told on a conference call that he would be hated by fans if his recent trades don’t work out.
“Not any more than we’ll hate ourselves,” Friedman said.
Asked if he had any reservations about trading a player as popular as Kemp, Friedman replied, “Sure. 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. You have to give up talent to get talent and we felt this put us in a position to be a better baseball team.”
In exchange for Kemp and backup catcher Tim Federowicz, the Dodgers received catcher Yasmani Grandal, right-hander Joe Wieland and pitching prospect Zach Eflin. They sent Eflin to the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday to complete their trade for shortstop Jimmy Rollins. As part of the deal, the Phillies will cover $1 million of Rollins’ $11-million salary.
In addition to Grandal and Rollins, the Dodgers recently acquired another projected everyday position player in second baseman Howie Kendrick.
“This just gets back to us doing everything we could to mold our roster into the most highly-functioning baseball team, as opposed to a collection of talent,” Friedman said.
At a news conference in San Diego, Kemp said he was shocked when he learned of his trade to the Padres.
“I thought the only team I was ever going to play for was the Dodgers,” said Kemp, who is under contract for five more years and $107 million.
However, Kemp said he was embracing the move.
“Hollywood, man, it’s tough sometimes,” he said. “You have to live up to all these different expectations. This is San Diego. It’s so chill here. All people do here is surf and paddleboard. They’re just chilling, man, drinking their green tea and green juices and all that. It’s just laid back. I like that. I’ve been in Hollywood a long time. I love Hollywood, don’t get me wrong, but here I can kick back and wear some shorts and some flip-flops and nobody will judge what I’m wearing. I don’t have to worry about paparazzi taking pictures of me.”
Kemp will be part of a revamped Padres lineup that recently added power hitters Wil Myers, Derek Norris and, on Friday, Justin Upton.
“I know the first game of the season’s going to be in L.A., so I’ve already marked that on my calendar,” Kemp said.
The Padres open the 2015 season at Dodger Stadium on April 6.
Back in Los Angeles, the Dodgers staged an introductory news conference of their own for Kendrick, who spent the previous nine seasons with the Angels.
“I love the West Coast,” Kendrick said. “I’ve kind of grown accustomed to being out on this side of town. I don’t think you can ask for anything better.”
Kendrick’s new double-play partner will be Rollins, who was the National League’s most valuable player in 2007.
Rollins, 36, could have blocked his trade to the Dodgers, as a 10-and-5 player — a player who has played 10 years in the major leagues, including the last five with the same team.
Rollins said he would have permitted trades to only three teams: the Dodgers, the New York Yankees and the New York Mets.
The Dodgers were his first choice.
“I’ve always loved the color blue,” he said. “That’s my favorite color. But the most important thing is that they’re built to win right this very moment.”
Relief pitcher Brian Wilson was released Friday. The right-hander had been designated for assignment Tuesday. . . . Outfielder-first baseman Kyle Jensen was designated for assignment to create a roster spot for Rollins. . . . Catcher Ryan Lavarnway was claimed off waivers by the Chicago Cubs.
Follow Dylan Hernandez on Twitter @dylanohernandez