Chicago Cubs trade Tony Kemp in what can only be called a blockbuster

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

While the baseball world’s eyes were focused on Houston Monday, the Chicago Cubs sent Tony Kemp to Oakland in exchange for a minor leaguer.

On Monday afternoon, the Chicago Cubs traded utility infielder/outfielder Tony Kemp to the Oakland Athletics for minor league infielder Alfonso Rivas.  In the grand scheme of things, it means very little but maybe, just maybe it’s a sign the team’s slow offseason could be thawing.

This winter has beguiled fans and writers alike. But until arbitration was settled there was little the Cubs could do.  It’s the job of fans to demand action to improve the team – especially when that team won just 84 games and missed the postseason last year.  It’s the responsibility of Theo Epstein and the front office to ignore all that. As many a manager, coach and front office guys have said, “If you listen to the fans, pretty soon you’ll be sitting with them.”

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Chicago acquired Kemp in the Martin Maldonado trade last season. He figured to be a nice addition to the roster but he struggled in his time with the Cubs and was relegated to a pinch-hit/defensive substitution role by the end of the season.  In 279 plate appearances with the Cubs, he slashed just .212/.291/.380 with eight homers, nine doubles, four triples and four steals.

In exchange for Kemp, Chicago received minor leaguer Alfonso Rivas, a solid-hitting first baseman who also has put in time in both corner outfield spots.  The 23-year-old’s overall minor league career slash is a very solid .290/.390/.411 with a .801 OPS.  He skipped Double-A and in between High-A and Triple-A ball last year, he turned in a .292/.387/.423 line across 543 plate appearances.

In the field, the fourth-round pick has put in most of his time at first base, logging 1,248 innings there, or 90 percent of his playing time. He’s achieved a .993 overall fielding percentage but was perfect in 60 innings in 2019 at Triple-A.  He has 130 innings as an outfielder and left field seems to be the better spot for him defensively.

Now, this is certainly a roster clearing move by the Cubs.  Kemp was out of options so he was either headed to the 25-man roster or designated for assignment.  This trade netted a decent value for Kemp and adds a little depth to the farm system.

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Will bigger moves be ahead?  No one knows but with arbitration over the club is likely to be more aggressive in the trade market – although Kris Bryant‘s still-unresolved grievance continues to hang over the team.