GLENDALE, Ariz. — There are things you didn’t expect to see in Arizona any time soon.
Snow. Hybrid cars. Matt Kemp in a Dodgers uniform.
“I’m just as surprised as you,” Kemp said Tuesday, that familiar smile surrounded by the seemingly-obligatory bushy beard, his equally-inflamed hair held back by a Dodger blue headband as he talked to reporters in front of a locker just a few feet from the one he last occupied at Camelback Ranch in spring 2014.
The unexpected reunion began with a call from his agent back in December when the Dodgers and Atlanta Braves agreed to a trade that was all about the bad contracts being shed. The Braves took Adrian Gonzalez, Brandon McCarthy and Scott Kazmir off the Dodgers’ hands, allowing the Dodgers to get under the competitive-balance tax threshold for the first time in five years.
In exchange, the Dodgers agreed to take Kemp and the $43 million remaining on the contract he signed with them to much fanfare in November 2011.
“When I got the call I was eating lunch with some friends,” Kemp said. “My agent called me. He was like, ‘Hey, you’ve been traded.’ I was, ‘Where?’ He started laughing. ‘What??’ And he said, ‘It’s the Dodgers.’ I’m like, ‘Stop lying.’ And he was, ‘No, for real.’”
The trade was for real. But Kemp’s return also figured to be not for long. The Dodgers spent the winter trying to move him to another team, hoping to get someone else to pay at least a portion of his remaining salary.
Those efforts will no doubt continue – and would only be aided if Kemp proves to be as rejuvenated as he claims to be and as in shape as he appears to be this spring. For now, though, Kemp is one of the position players who reported to camp along with pitchers and catchers Tuesday.
“They were up front with me. They told me they didn’t know what was going to happen,” Kemp said. “But for me – I love being back. This is where I came up. This is where I grew up. I’ve always…