This story appears in ESPN The Magazine’s Oct. 1 Gaming Issue. Subscribe today!
There is no easy way to tell a player he’s been traded. But generally whatever awkwardness or emotion an executive feels from those calls is offset by the excitement of the calls welcoming the players joining the club. Last December Andrew Friedman took pleasure from neither: He had to call the team’s prodigal son, Matt Kemp, to tell him he’d been reacquired by the Dodgers — the team he came up with and with which he nearly won an MVP — but likely wasn’t staying long.
Friedman, the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations, cut right to the chase. “I just want to be honest with you,” he told Kemp. “I’m not sure how this will play out.”
This was the second time the two men had spoken. The first came in 2014, when Friedman was two months into his job in LA. The team’s billionaire owners had lured him away from small-market Tampa Bay and tasked him with remaking the Dodgers into a championship contender instead of an expensive collection of disgruntled, disappointing stars. Friedman’s first big trade as the Dodgers’ shot caller sent Kemp, once the unquestioned face of the franchise, to the moribund Padres.
So two phone calls, two trades, both of which involved telling Kemp he wasn’t a part of the team’s present or future plans. Not exactly the way to start a good relationship. “S—, I got all happy at first,” Kemp says of Friedman’s call to him last year. “I could go back to LA where it all…