GOODYEAR, Ariz. (AP) — A week after outfielder Matt Kemp was traded from the Los Angeles Dodgers to the Cincinnati Reds, he got a sideline pass for Oklahoma basketball game and had a chance meeting with another Oklahoma native: Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench.
"It was pretty cool," Kemp said. "It just so happened that I just got traded to Cincinnati. It was only right to sit there and chat with him for a while."
Kemp learned firsthand about some of the Reds' history after he was included in their biggest offseason trade. Cincinnati acquired Kemp, left-hander Alex Wood, Yasiel Puig and Kyle Farmer for Homer Bailey and minor leaguers Jeter Downs and Josiah Gray on Dec. 21. It was the fourth time the 34-year old outfielder was traded, but this one was unique given that he wasn't alone going to a new team.
"Transitioning every time is different," he said, as the Reds opened camp with their first workout by catchers and pitchers. "I think this time it is easier. I've got a couple guys here who I played with last year. So far so good."
Kemp joins a Reds team with a changed outfield after center fielder Billy Hamilton was allowed to go free and signed with Kansas City. Left fielder Adam Duvall was traded to Atlanta last year.
Kemp won Gold Gloves in 2009 and 2011. Last season in 149 games, Kemp played the corner outfield positions. He and Puig join incumbent Jesse Winker, who had shoulder surgery midway through 2018, and Scott Schebler and Philip Ervin in competing for playing time.
Kemp batted .290 with 21 home runs and 85 RBIs last season. He was one of seven Dodgers with 20 or more home runs as LA won the National League title but lost to the Boston Red Sox in five games.
He is seven seasons removed from 2011, when he led the NL with 39 home runs and 126 RBIs for the Dodgers. Kemp signed a $160 million, eight-year contract and since has been dealt to San Diego, Atlanta, back to the Dodgers and then to the Reds. He and Puig can become free agents after the season, so their time in Cincinnati could be limited.
Kemp has a .289 average with 10 homers in 36 games at Great American Ball Park. After four straight 90-loss seasons, the Reds are looking to be more competitive in the NL Central with their overhauled roster.
"I think we're going to be pretty good," Kemp said.