The trade deadline provided the Chicago Cubs with a few key rentals, but they also gained a future asset in utility man Tony Kemp.
It’s hard to determine where the Chicago Cubs will be positioned next year with second base options. Human Swiss Army knife Ben Zobrist is about to hit free agency, and the future has never been more unclear for Addison Russell and Daniel Descalso.
This is where Tony Kemp comes in. The 27-year-old utility bat never got much of a chance in Houston due to being blocked by All-Star second baseman José Altuve and lacking an overall role with the Astros.
Now, as a Cub, it looks like Kemp may get the playing time he needs to truly blossom. Since he’s under team control until 2023, he could take over the utility role when and if Zobrist vacates it.
In his brief career thus far, Kemp has only managed one year with close to 300 plate appearances (2018). He hit for a respectable 107 OPS+ and made appearances in all outfield positions, as well as second base.
He also stole nine bags and hit six home runs, providing a glimpse into the sort of scrappy, speedy player he can be.
Perhaps the most notable fact about Kemp as a hitter is his ability to limit strikeouts. Kemp’s 15.9% career strikeout rate is significantly better than league average which, combined with his above average walk rate (9.4%)? It makes him a tremendous asset to a swing and miss heavy Cubs team.
In upcoming years, it’s not hard to see the Cubs giving Kemp more regular playing time. And possibly moving on from Russell and potentially Descalso in the middle infield. Combined with the return of Ian Happ and the presence of David Bote, as well as any potential free-agent acquisitions, the team’s depth options over the next few years are plentiful.
Next year, Kemp could also see time in the outfield to provide relief to the usual second base makes more sense as his home. The team’s greatest need is in the middle infield, but having that kind of flexibility allows for all manner of defensive setups.
Of course, all of this is assuming the regular playing time brings out Kemp’s potential as a player. It’s hard to shake out what role he’ll obtain because of this. Especially when considering some of the upcoming talent, like shortstop Nico Hoerner, that will be vying for a roster spot in the future.
Still, the prospect of Kemp becoming the team’s new Swiss Army man is fun to contemplate. Another well-disciplined utility man is what the Chicago Cubs could use with the loss of Zobrist looming. But Kemp’s production yet remains a question mark due to limited time in the big leagues.