Free spending George Steinbrenner decided this was the lefty compliment to Dave Winfield and provide the team with some needed power. As a 28 year old turning 29, he was expected to exhort a little youth into a team that still had 1970s carry-overs Graig Nettles, Willie Randolph, Lou Pinella and Bobby Murcer. Power from a left handed hitting OF was optimum, and the signing of Kemp to a five year, $5.45 million contract was thought to be justified.
As could be told by the struggles of his 1983 season, this was quickly a signing the Yankees wish they could forget. His average quickly dipped to .247, hitting just 12 HR and driving in just 49 runs in 105 games. For my saber friends, his OPS dropped 90 points from 1982 to .718. For the majority of the 1983 and all of the 1984 seasons, Kemp was not a regular player. His average increased to .291, but he hit just 7 HR and drove in just 41 runs.
After the 1984 season, the Yankees, led by Steinbrenner, decided it was time to move on from Kemp and traded him and his contract to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the deal that brought back Jay Buhner and Dale Berra. Kemp, despite still receiving his check from the Yankees, continued to struggle with Pittsburgh, hitting .250, 2, 21 in 92 games during the 1985 season. After going 3-16 to start the 1986 season, Kemp was released and spent the rest of the season playing in AAA in the San Diego Padres organization. In 1987, which was the final season of the five year deal he signed with the Yankees, he played it entirely for the Texas Rangers AAA Oklahoma City team, hitting 20 HR in 121 games.
So, the Yankees had no problem paying the former number 1 overall pick in the 1976 draft to not be around. The Yankees paid him for his year plus in Pittsburgh as well as his 3/4 of a season in the San Diego organization and a year in the Rangers' organization. Jason Bay gets all his remaining money he was entitled to, to play the final year of his deal in Seattle. Bay hit for 36 HR and 116 RBI in the 2009 season with Boston in 151 games. In his 3 years with the Mets, he played 288 games, but hit 26 HR and drove in 124 runs. Of course, he has the 2013 season to add to his numbers. Kemp hit 19 HR and drove in 98 in 160 games in 1982 for the White Sox. During his entire 5 year contract with the Yankees, which included his season plus in Pittsburgh, he played in 308 games and hit 22 HR, driving in 112.
Who, out of the two, was the bigger disappointment? In my opinion it was Bay, who had so much more expected out of him. Plus, the Mets were hurt because his projected bat has never been replaced in the lineup. The Yankees added Rickey Henderson with the hopes of replacing him offensively. It will be curious to see if the Mets add an OF to supplement the numbers Bay had in Boston.