First, let me say, I love Tony Kemp. I’ve loved him ever since he was posting juicy walk rates as he moved up the system. I loved his low walk rates, and bountiful stolen bases. Second, Kemp is good at baseball. He’s accumulated positive WAR in the last two seasons. Third, Kemp is fun. I love his dives, his claps, his newfound isolated power, and his zest for the game. I like Tony Kemp the Astro. Therefore it saddens me to say that his days are likely numbered, barring unforeseen injury or setback.
We all know that two infielders are rejoining the team in the current week, and that means roster changes. The Astros might swap two batters with one pitcher and one batter, which means they could option Straw and Urquiddy/Armentreros for Diaz and Correa. But I don’t think that’s going to happen, for two reasons.
First, they might want to keep 13 arms, even with the off days, as the dog days are upon us. In that case, there’s no room for either Kemp or Straw. Second, between Kemp and Straw, the Astros are going to keep Straw up, even with his option, because Myles Straw is just that good.
The Astros already DFA’d White, even though they could have sent Straw down. Straw’s value comes from elite base running and out-fielding. His hitting, aided by a .370 BABIP and an absurd 17% walk rate, has proved that he deserves to stay, options be damned. That speed, defense, and refusal to be overmatched, despite a lack of power, make him a near lock for the playoff roster. He’s produced 0.7 Fangraphs WAR in just 88 PAs. Straw might even force Marisnick off the roster during the offseason.
Kemp is not flashy, but he’s good, and plenty of teams could use a guy like Kemp. Unlike White (so far) and Reed, I think Kemp gets return in a trade before the vultures swoop in and take him for free off the DFA heap. He’s just not good enough to be on this team, even with a four man bench, when the team is at the full strength it’s careening toward.
You may say, well Straw can come back September 1st when rosters expand, and then Kemp can be kept. I’d counter that Straw needs to face MLB pitching and learn what he can before the playoffs. Kemp, meanwhile, would play rarely with a healthy Altuve and Diaz at 2b, and a corner OF manned by three lefties (Alvarez, Reddick, Brantley). Kemp has helped the team, but he doesn’t fit this roster, even less so with Kyle Tucker banging on the door. Ditto next spring.
Getting back to the playoffs, Kemp can help another team now. 21 teams are within 6.5 games of the playoffs. That’s a lot of teams. And Kemp has more value now, as a guy you need right now, than in the offseason, when few teams are interested in making Tony Kemp, who’s turning 28 in October, part of their future plans. A smart team will see his value.
Maybe I’m wrong, and we’ll get much more Kemp. But if I’m right, let’s savor every Kemp AB this week. As Geoff Blum likes to say, Kempin’ ain’t easy.