When the Dodgers take the field for their first game of the 2015 season, one of their most popular players of the last decade will be wearing the uniform of the opposing team.
Matt Kemp will playing for the San Diego Padres, who visit Dodger Stadium for their April 6 season opener.
The Dodgers closed baseball’s winter meetings Thursday by agreeing to deal Kemp to the division rival Padres, continuing a swift and significant roster makeover that started with three trades the previous day.
Kemp, catcher Tim Federowicz and $32 million will be sent to the Padres in exchange for catcher Yasmani Grandal and two pitchers, right-hander Joe Wieland and prospect Zach Eflin, according to people familiar with the situation who spoke under the condition of anonymity because the trade hasn’t been finalized. The deal is pending physical examinations, as well as the approval of the commissioner’s office.
Eflin will be moved to the Philadelphia Phillies to complete the Wednesday deal for shortstop Jimmy Rollins.
Slowed by injuries in recent years, the 30-year-old Kemp had a bounce-back season this year, hitting .287 with 25 home runs and 89 runs batted in, much of that production coming after the All-Star break. The Padres will pay him $15 million over the next five seasons, with the Dodgers covering the remainder of the $107 million he is guaranteed.
By trading him, the Dodgers became less dynamic offensively, but also less injury-prone. Considering Kemp’s decline as a fielder in recent years, they probably improved defensively.
Top prospect Joc Pederson figures to start in center field next season, with Yasiel Puig in right and Carl Crawford in left. Andre Ethier could remain on the bench, which makes him another candidate to be traded by Andrew Friedman, the team’s new president of baseball operations.
Kemp is the second high-caliber right-handed hitter to depart this winter, the first being Hanley Ramirez, who signed a four-year, $88-million contract with the Boston Red Sox.
With Kemp and Ramirez playing elsewhere, Adrian Gonzalez remains as the only dependable run producer in the middle of the lineup.
The team’s top right-handed-hitting threats will be Puig and second baseman Howie Kendrick, who was acquired Wednesday from the Angels.
Puig was an All-Star this year, but he was inconsistent. He hit only two home runs in the 88 games the Dodgers played from May 29 to Sept. 15 and was benched for the final game of the National League division series.
Kendrick batted .293 this year and drove in 75 runs, but he hit only seven home runs.
Rollins, a 36-year-old switch-hitter, could replace Dee Gordon as the team’s leadoff hitter. Gordon, who led the major leagues with 64 steals, was traded Wednesday to the Miami Marlins.
Grandal might be an upgrade from incumbent starting catcher A.J. Ellis, but he has a disconcerting history. Grandal, who was linked to the Biogenesis clinic, batted .297 as a rookie in 2012, only to be suspended for 50 games the next season for using performance-enhancing drugs. He batted only .225 this year and Padres pitchers were said to prefer to pitch to the team’s other catcher, Rene Rivera.
The Dodgers also feel they will improve their rotation by adding Brandon McCarthy, with whom they are close to a four-year, $48-million contract. McCarthy will move into the place in the rotation that was previously occupied by Dan Haren, who also was traded to the Marlins.
The team remains in search of another starting pitcher and is expected to explore another trade with the Phillies, this one for Cole Hamels.
Whatever else the Dodgers do, this winter probably will be defined by how their 2015 season plays out relative to Kemp’s.
Kemp was drafted out of high school by the Dodgers in 2003. A sixth-round selection, he quickly climbed up the Dodgers’ farm system and broke into the major leagues in 2006.
By 2009, he was arguably the best position player on the Dodgers. By 2011, he was probably the best all-around player in the game, as well as the face of the franchise. That season, Kemp nearly won the National League triple crown, batting .324 with 39 home runs and 126 runs batted in. He also stole 40 bases and finished second in voting for the most-valuable-player award.
In a message posted on his Instagram account Thursday, Kemp thanked the Dodgers for “taking a chance on an Oklahoma kid.” He also thanked the fans of Los Angeles.
“It is with a lot of emotion that I say goodbye to the city and the fans who have been there since the beginning of my career,” Kemp wrote. “You have given me so much.”