Baseball's winter meetings are over. Giancarlo Stanton officially became a Yankee. Marcel Ozuna went to the Cardinals. Even the Angels traded for Ian Kinsler while they were in Florida for the conference, and then signed free agent Zack Cozart when they got home. The Los Angeles Dodgers didn't do squat.
That is, until this week, when they swung a huge deal with the Atlanta Braves. After further review, however, this is much ado about literally nothing. LA acquired former Dodger outfielder Matt Kemp—one guy—for pitchers Brandon McCarthy and Scott Kazmir, infielders Charlie Culberson and Adrian Gonzalez, and cash considerations. When you see that alert on your phone during a weekend of meaningless college football (more later), critical games for pro teams, and a Star Wars marathon over on TNT, it makes one not only hit the pause button on the remote, but also turn the TV off entirely for awhile, and contemplate for a moment or two of silent reflection and analysis.
The Dodgers gave away four guys for a once-great but now washed up outfielder? Ah, yes, well look at the four guys. Three of them are washed up as well. Gonzalez might never play again, and, as it turns out, the Braves released him (technically he was 'designated for assignment') the next day. Kazmir didn't pitch at all in 2017 due to injury, McCarthy spent most of this past season hurt but pitched in the playoffs, and Culberson, who will always be remembered for his 2016 division-clinching walkoff home run on Vin Scully's last game on the air at Dodger Stadium, spent almost the entire regular season in the minor leagues but played in the post-season.
Before reading the article about the trade, further thought and examination turned this light bulb on. A term mostly used in the NBA. Salary dump. Sure enough, reading the article, Gonzalez, Kazmir, and McCarty are all free agents after 2018, and Kemp has two more years remaining on his contract, which the Dodgers now take on. Gonzalez will make 21.5 million next season, Kazmir 15 million, and McCarthy 12 million. Culberson, by not making hardly anything next to these guys, is actually the most valuable to the Braves, and you figure well, the Dodgers had to give up something.
So while this clears salary for the Dodgers, and puts them under the luxury tax threshold (they don't get penalized for going over a certain payroll, and have to distribute more money to all the other teams), what's in it for the Braves? The answer is 2019. In other words, the Braves took on all those contracts for this coming year so that they would be off the books the following year, and can jump into a free agent market that will likely include Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and possibly even Clayton Kershaw (he can opt out of a 30-plus million dollar a year deal after this coming season). Kemp is owed over 20-million in 2018 and 19, which they will eat, and may even do what the Braves did with Gonzalez, and let him go.
While still not done reading the article, the next question that pops into one's head like a VH1 pop-up video, is 'Why didn't the Dodgers do this sooner so they could trade for Stanton?' Dodgers spokespeople didn't address that issue directly, but indicated again that they were never in on Stanton, even though, he's only 27, could regularly hit fly balls from Dodger Stadium to the Rose Bowl, and most of all, reportedly said he wanted to a Dodger. Perhaps a free agent signing (Lorenzo Cain?) or a trade (Andrew McCutchen?) is possible now. We'll have to wait and see, but perhaps not very long. Only six more shopping days until Christmas, and the mall for trades and free agents is open late. Perhaps there's a good parking spot available for a player or two in Los Angeles.
8+24=Kobe: It seems ridiculous to me that the Los Angeles Lakers retired both of Kobe Bryant's uniform numbers, but with number 8 and number 24 lofted into the rafters in a ceremony tonight, Bryant's speech to the fans was incredible. Standing at center court with a microphone in his hand for several minutes, Bryant not only thanked the fans, but honored all of the other greats like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, and Shaquille O'Neal—many of whom were in attendance. It was a nice moment, which then led to a nice game. The Lakers took the Golden State Warriors to overtime before losing to the defending champs 116-114.
Can't see TV: It was the highest-rated NFL game of the year so far, and if you live in northern California (or Tennessee), you didn't get to see it. The Pittsburgh Steelers appeared to have scored a late game-winning touchdown, but it was overturned on replay, and the New England Patriots won 27-24. The two teams can't play each other in the Super Bowl, but could face each other again in the AFC Championship, which we would get to see. CBS was obligated instead to give us the lousy San Francisco 49ers against the Tennessee Titans. While it was no New England-Pittsburgh, Niners kickers Robbie Gould nailed six (yes, six) field goals including one as time ran out, to give SF a 25-23 victory.
Bowl-o-rama: Even the most die-hard college football fan has to think there are too many bowl games. The post-season kicked off Saturday with six of them. The Las Vegas Bowl was the most intriguing with Boise State defeating Oregon, but there was also the Celebration Bowl, New Orleans Bowl, Auto Nation Cure Bowl, New Mexico Bowl, and the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl. If you missed any of those, you can still check out the Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl (seriously—Akron vs. Florida Atlantic) Tuesday, the Frisco (Texas) Bowl Wednesday, and honestly, the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl (you can't make this stuff up) between mighty powerhouses Temple and Florida International on Thursday. Makes UCLA-Kansas State in the Cactus Bowl December 26 sound pretty good, doesn't it?