Oakland Athletics: Breaking down the trade for Tony Kemp

Oakland Athletics (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)
Oakland Athletics (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images) /

The Oakland Athletics have acquired speedy utility man Tony Kemp in a trade with the Chicago Cubs to bolster their second base and outfield depth.

The Oakland Athletics have had a fairly quiet offseason, but they did make a trade on Monday that could impact how their Opening Day roster shapes up. The A’s made a trade to acquire utility man Tony Kemp in a move that gives them additional depth and a possible starting option.

Kemp spent the first three-and-a-half years of his MLB career with the Houston Astros before being sent to the Chicago Cubs for catcher Martin Maldonado in the middle of 2019.

Unfortunately, 2019 wasn’t exactly a banner year for the speedy outfielder.

Kemp slashed just .212/.291/.380 split between Houston and Chicago with a lowly .183 batting average in 44 games with the Cubs. This came following a career-year in 2018 in which he slashed .263/.351/.392 while finishing with a positive OPS+ of 105 and a 0.7 WAR.

But the A’s aren’t looking for a .280+ hitter who can knock in 20+ home runs a game. Kemp’s value comes more with his plus speed and excellent fielding ability.

Even more so, Kemp gives the A’s a left-handed bat in a righty-heavy lineup.

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While he has plenty of experience playing in the outfield, it’s most likely that the A’s will look to use him at second base. He’ll join the likes of Franklin Barreto, Sheldon Neuse, and Jorge Mateo who are all competing for the starting second base job.

He could have a leg up though given that he’s the only one of the four who bats from the left side.

Perhaps his primary competition for a roster spot could come with recent Rule 5 Draft pickup Vimael Machin. Machin is also a left-handed bat who can play multiple positions and gives the Athletics an option who’s a little younger.

Either way, Kemp is out of options and Machin would have to be returned to his former team, so one of the two will likely be sent packing following Spring Training.

In return for Kemp, the A’s sent minor-league infielder Alfonso Rivas to the Cubs. Rivas was a fourth-round pick of the Athletics back in 2018 who spent nearly all of 2019 with Class A Advanced Stockton before being promoted to Triple-A Las Vegas late in the year.

Tony Kemp should immediately step in and provide some additional depth on a roster desperately needing left-handed bats. The speed and above-average defense come as a plus and should help him secure a roster spot come March.

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It’s been a slow offseason, but at least the trade for Kemp gives Oakland Athletics fans something to talk about in mid-January.