The Kendall trade

DMZ · November 27, 2004 at 5:43 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Now that it’s official, here’s the scoop:

C-R Jason Kendall to Oakland
LHP Arthur Rhodes, LHP Mark Redman to Pittsburgh

Kendall, 30, is a California boy who wanted to get closer to home anyway.

As to the financials… it depends on what you read. Redman has about $8m on his contract for 2005-2006, while Rhodes due about $6m over the same two years. Kendall, supposedly, has about $34m over three years. So it would seem to be
2005: A’s take on ~+3m
2006: A’s take on ~+3m
2007: A’s take on some huge chunk of money ($17m?)

I’ve heard the Pirates are taking on money, and also that they’re only on the hook for a big chunk of 2007. I’ve also read that the A’s actually pay the Pirates for 2005-2006. At some point, the particulars will emerge.

It’s a huge deal for the A’s, and I think it demonstrates again that Beane’s willing to think sideways in a way we haven’t seen in Seattle. Last year, he (as I did) thought Rhodes would rebound and again become a top-flight reliever, and possibly could be used as a closer and then converted into something shiny. He was also part of an attempt by Oakland to corner the market on servicable lefties to (I guess) trade to contenders or… I’m not sure, and this part wasn’t a particularly well-thought-out idea. What’s important to note is that the A’s were stuck with this contract, and were going to pay Rhodes to stink or swim for the next couple of years, when they’re chock full of potential relievers who could do that job for much less.

And Redman… he’s enjoyed some success, and I’ll leave the detailed scouting reports to others, but he just doesn’t get the Ks. At 30, looking at the possibilities to take a rotation slot for the A’s, Beane probably figured Redman wasn’t a good enough bet to enjoy continued success compared to the others and felt he could move him. He was the least valuable of the five guys that took regular turns last year.

At this point, stop for a second. The A’s just traded one of their big starters. What happens now? If Beane doesn’t make any more moves, their rotation will run Hudson-Mulder-Harden-Zito-scrub, where Scrub will actually be pretty good.

In the meantime, Damian Miller signed a three-year, $8.75m deal. Jason Varitek’s asking for $200m/20y last I heard a Boras quote.

Last year’s VORP for these guys:
Jason Kendall, 47.5
Jason Varitek, 46.0
Damian Miller, 16.8

As others have noted in the Miller thread, the bulk of catchers out there are 31 and up and not at all exciting. I’m sure there’s a lot of difference in the skill sets between Blanco and Bako, but in the end, there’s not a lot of performance difference.

Billy Beane, for $3m/year, acquired a 30 year old, top-5 catcher for the next three years without significantly degrading his team.

The Pirates get a starter, a reliever they still might be able to find a home for, and now they’re out of excuses.

As Pittsburgh GM Dave Littlefield said, “the formula of one player eating up a significant portion of the payroll just doesn’t work. The easiest example and most recent is A-Rod in Texas. When one player makes up a significant portion of payroll, it’s not a formula for long-term success.”

That’s not true, obviously, because Alex earned his money in Texas, and those problems weren’t caused by him. But it’s an easy line to advance. Beyond being wrong, though, it’s just not cool to blame players in situations like this. It’s the team’s fault they offered Kendall so much money, if it turns out he wasn’t worth it. For years now they’ve pointed at Kendall and said “here’s the source of our problems” and that stinks.

The new problem is that now where they had a well-paid (perhaps too well-paid, sure) premier player and an excuse, now they have Arthur Rhodes and Mark Redman, and if they don’t improve, what are they going to point to then? The Pirates are now without a catcher, and they’re probably going to spend what the A’s took on in salary to get someone far inferior to Kendall. What good is that?

As for the Mariners angle, there are two:
The A’s again demonstrated that, given an opportunity anywhere in baseball with a team that will pick up a phone, they’ll try and get themselves in on the deal. Especially in a situation like this, where a team’s determined to get rid of a player or improve in some particular area, the A’s will be there with four different ways to solve the other team’s problem, and being to wear them down until a deal’s made.

Does anyone really believe that the Mariners couldn’t have made this deal, with their huge available cash reserves and array of even-cheaper options to trade to the Pirates? They have no catcher now — wouldn’t they want Olivo? And a left-handed reliever? We’ve got Guardado, for one, on a cheaper deal than Rhodes. A starter? There’s a couple of options, though none with Redman’s pedigree — but what about Moyer and his expiring contract? Or one of our crop of young Tacoma/Seattle starters from last year?

If the team’s pursuing old, expensive upgrades, why not this younger, less-expensive upgrade at a premium position where he wouldn’t be blocking any young, cheap options? Sure, we’re not California, but it’s a heck of a lot faster to fly down there, and you don’t have to connect anywhere.

Tip of the cap to the A’s for this one.


59 Responses to “The Kendall trade”

  1. roger tang on November 28th, 2004 11:47 pm

    re #48

    Nah, Mariner ownership doesn’t even remotely regrets hiring Bavasi; they have no stinking clue on how to run a baseball team (and were too arrogant until this year to even admit it).

  2. msb on November 29th, 2004 9:46 am

    (don’t get me started on Cam Bonifay)

    FWIW, ‘they say’ that P’burgh is going to try to turn Rhodes around (poss. to LA) for more offence…

  3. Swing and A Miss on November 29th, 2004 4:14 pm

    In regards to a portion of the #7 post. I agree regarding Kendall being a singles hitter and having good BA while having little power. People put him down for it. However, there are few, if any cathers who routinely hit over .300, much less very few who hit over .300 and hit a lot of dingers. But, then the M’s are stuck with a guy who only seems to hit singles, with little power, and everyone loves him. Ichiro. So, if a guy gets hits, keeps an inning going, starts a rally, moves a runner from first to third with that single or double, then I’d rather have him than a guy who hits .245, 20 hrs, and drives in 60 runs. The .320 hitter, with 35 doubles, 75 ribi’s plus catching makes more sense. Plus, they can “rest” Kendall now at DH and not lose him like the Pirates did when they had to sit him to rest.

  4. David J Corcoran on November 29th, 2004 4:51 pm

    “Sure, we’re not California, but it’s a heck of a lot faster to fly down there, and you don’t have to connect anywhere.”

    Um…. I should point one thing out. U.S. Airways and United have direct flights from Pittsburgh to San Fran, and U.S. Airways has a direct flight from Pittsburgh to L.A.

  5. DMZ on November 29th, 2004 8:08 pm

    He’s from San Diego, dude. I looked up Pitt-SD and couldn’t find any nonstop flights.

  6. Bela Txadux on November 30th, 2004 2:51 am

    The Kendall trade is a fascinating one to watch, and it again illustrates that B. Beane is, really, two entirely different GMs. Beane the Trader is, well, as close to a genius as we’ve had in a baseball FO in recent times. I just really enjoy his moves, in this capacity, regardless how they play out. Beane the Signer is a chump who bets his ass and loses, nearly every time. It’s just that the Good Billy covers the debt on the Bad Billy every time so he never has to punk. —And here, he’s done it again.

    Rhodes was such a terrible, terrible sign. If I hadn’t seen the Bad Billy in action before I wouldn’t have believe Beane could blunder so totally. Arthur Lee has never, ever succeeded as a closer. Why, you guess; I don’t know. He could not do this in Baltimore, period; he was Heathcliffe Slocumb in the role. On the few occasions this was tried in Seattle for short spaces of need, Rhodes imploded, most notably in June, ’03 (where were you for that Billy, on vacation?). Arthur Lee takes forever to warm up. He pitches poorly on consecutive days. He most always loses effectiveness after 4-5 batters. In ’03, Rhodes lost a lot of velocity and most of his effectiveness in the second half of the season; he totally looked like a guy with a dead arm or worse. His slider was flat, and he rarely topped 90. He was not-young, and had a major arm injury in the past: everyone who’s ragged on Meche and touted Rhodes please hold a conference with yourself and agree on a story so we’ll all know where you stand, keeping in mind that Gil is much younger than the lefty was when Beane signed him. I was extremely relieved that the Ms let Rhodes go. Rhodes was outstanding as a guy to nail 2-3 batters, primarily lefties, and a tremendous asset when he had velocity. Without the pace, he was a liability. I thought Rhodes was a certainty to fail as the As closer. It is quite possible that he will never pitch effectively again, although given the up-and-down nature of relief pitching he could well knock out another prime season as a situational reliever somewhere. For $4M per no matter what, though, that’s damned expensive.

    Redman, on the other hand, I had high hopes for. Redman and Glendon Rusch were the two pitchers in the majors I had highest on my list to graduate for lefty junk dealers to Sneaky Veterans on the order of Reuter and the pre-Price Jamie Moyer. Instead, Rusch took the major step forward while Redman was majorly minor of result. Oh, well. Beane NEVER stands pat, and he has acquired a guy only to shop him after an average season inumerable times. It makes for a certain amount of roster churn, but that keeps guys edgy and hungry too, which is a definite positive, and accordingly a secret strength in the level of play that the As typically have generated in my view.

    On Kendall, yes he gets on base, and yes his VORP shows he is a good deal more valuable as an offensive player than is commonly credited by anyone other than Billy the Good. Question: can he catch? Not, Can he stay healthy enough to catch, but, When he is on the field is he even adequate as a _catcher_?? My clear recollection is that he is a very, very poor fielder and play caller, physical condition notwithstanding. —Which makes him the perfect Beane counter: good OBP, limited power, mediocre defender. Billy Bad/Good collects these guys, which is part of why: a) B. Beane’s As always stay in games and win late when you think they won’t [cause they get on and score when you think they won’t], and b) lose faster and harder in the post-season then you think they will [cause they don’t catch-and-throw when they damn well should]. Question: was Billy Bean a good on-base guy _as a player_ relative to his known low batting average? ‘Cause if so, he collects players who are, well, just chips off the old block.

    Overall, I see this deal as nothing but a positive for the As, as they traded a horrible reliever (at present) and a barely visible fifth starter for a guy who can actually hit who himself might well be packaged and moved again _before_ his take-a-lump sum payment is due. Bear that in mind. Just because Kendall will play for the As in ’05 does not in any way imply his presence on their roster in any subsequent season.

    As far as what Kendall’s departure means for the Pirates—wait, just what does it mean? McClendon is an honest dud. The team has half a pitching staff maybe. The team has a very poor record of developing what pitching it collects. Bay and Wilson can play: anyone else there??? That team was a mess with Kendall, and given that they will be paying and hence playing Redman and Rhodes neither of whom figure to have any significant value _unlike_ Kendall it’s hard to see how Pittsburgh’s talent base is in any way improved. The owner and the media in that town have long wanted Kendall gone; he’s gone; that’s called progress. Which rhymes with egress and regress, and likely projects along similar trajectories. *Sigh* To think, I grew up a Pirates fan; yes, really.

    There is actually a third Beane, the Drafter. And that’s exactly what I think he is there, a drafter. Some pretty mid-minors numbers from skillsy guys with college time make a shiny name for Billy the Kid, but his watch as GM has come up with really quite few superior players; as is well known, the All-Star caliber guys to come out of the As system were drafed and signed before he arrived because the team finished last in the majors of nearly and had high picks. Does anyone think that Woody Woor[head]ward is a development genius because he similarly ‘inherited’ Ken, Jr. and A-Rod were? Billy the Good does very interesting things with _analysis_ at any and all levels. He was the first to use unusual methods for the times in his drafting approach. He’s paid close attention to player development. But he has _not_ made any breakthough as far as the results show. Harden is by far the best player drafed and developed within his system for same, such as it is. Now, Crosby and Swisher both may well turn into fine major league players; at the moment, however, they don’t project as stars.

    Re: Zito, he looked great when guys kept swinging at that curve that seldom finishes in the strike zone. Once coaches did their film study and told guys to lay off it, Barry has been in trouble ever since, as his other pitches are a big step down. Despite Beane’s stated opinions this offseason about being unwilling to break up the Big Three, it’s Hudson-Mulder-Harden he’s actually thinking about, sez me, letting everyone else think otherwise while he pumps up Zito’s perceived value. If Billy the Good is the man I’ve watched for some years, don’t be surprised if the Beane pulls a multi-team deal in which the Yankees come up with Zito. This is how Good Billy operates. He moves mistakes to a greater fool before they drag him down, regardless of what others see as the value of the guys he gets back. Chavez, Kotsay, Crosby, Swisher, Kendall, Durazo figures to be a solid set of levers, with Hudson, Mulder, Harden as the fulcrum. I suspect Beane will get a few shillings from Schott to sign Hudson if Hudson’s signable, he’s the keeper there.

  7. DMZ on November 30th, 2004 3:39 am

    He most always loses effectiveness after 4-5 batters

    That’s not true. Rhodes has through his career been an effective multi-inning reliever. The last time he pitched a lot of whole innings (that is, before Melvin) he was deadly to the first five or so, then okay — .274 OBP — for the next five or so.

    My clear recollection is that he is a very, very poor fielder and play caller, physical condition notwithstanding. —Which makes him the perfect Beane counter: good OBP, limited power, mediocre defender

    Two things — no, defensively Kendall’s no slouch. His defense has been affected a great deal by his injuries — he was really good 1997-99, and then 2001-2002 he was bad, and this year he started to look really good again.

    And this perception of Oakland as a bad defensive team… it’s just not true. They were the third-best team in the AL by ball in play-into-outs, and if Mark Ellis hadn’t been injured they’d have played an all-defense infield (Hatteberg-Ellis-Crosby-Chavez). Even they, they played great defense.

    was Billy Bean a good on-base guy _as a player_ relative to his known low batting average?

    Beane actively collects guys unlike him, feeling that his own failure as a toolsy ballplayer says something about the value of toolsy ballplayers.

    his watch as GM has come up with really quite few superior players; as is well known, the All-Star caliber guys to come out of the As system were drafed and signed before he arrived because the team finished last in the majors of nearly and had high picks

    This is absolutely not true. Beane owes a great deal to Grady Fuson, but he was there and part of the picks. He joined the team in 1990, and was promoted to assistant GM in 1993, then GM in late 1997.

    Most of those guys you think he deserves no credit for, he was involved with:

    Assistant GM: Hudson
    GM: Mulder, Zito, Crosby

    And some other guys (Gerald Laird, for instance, or Bonderman) that didn’t end up with the team.

    Jason Giambi, drafted in 1992, and Eric Chavez, 1996, could you say Beane doesn’t deserve at least partial credit.

  8. MoxMox on November 30th, 2004 7:19 pm

    I look at other clubs in our division and I admit it – I have GM envy.

  9. Bela Txadux on December 1st, 2004 1:20 am

    So Derek,

    Thanks for the point by point rebuttal, and here’s a few follow-ons.

    Is Kendall throwing out a decent number of runners?? Overall, I recall Kendall in relation to his bad period; if the stats show his D as coming around since his leg finally healed, then this is an outright steal for Billy Beane.

    Rhodes: yes, I recall a big drop off after the first five or so, and yes, earlier in his career he held up better, no question. That BAA of .274 . . . take another look at that. For a late inning power reliever, and a lefty to boot that’s a high number to me, very high. It may just mean that he faces enough guys at 6+ batters that the righties knock him around a bit—except I recall him being burned by lefties as well when he wasn’t fresh. It would be interesting to see a break down by at-bat as well, to see if the guys at 6+ batters hit him for more power; I don’t have a distinct recollection there. My point isn’t that Rhodes _had been_ a bad reliever. On the contrary, I have seen him as a great example for maximum effectiveness in a reliever through situational deployment. If used for <5 batters with proper rest, he was dominating historically, and a major part of the Mariner bullpen. I suspect Billy Beane had visions of him as a ninth inning 3-4 batter guy. Except Rhodes had lost much of his effectiveness in ’03, and had a demonstrated history of getting torched as a closer. Why in either case this is the case I can’t tell you, but I have seen this over the course of his career. His signing to close was a slap in the face of the facts on Rhodes career, it should have been expected to go bad, and went bad. Rhodes may very well come back to have a good year or two as a late inning, limited deployment lefty, even a power lefty if he gets that power back. Beane’s decision to dump him reflects Good Billy’s accurate devaluation of Bad Billy’s mistaken evaluation, that’s all.

    Thanks for the follow up on Beane as a player, Derek; I’d completely forgotten he was a toolsy guy. All I remembered was that he was a high draft pick. So he has perhaps learned from hims own experience there, too, which seems to me much more like his nature: Good Billy does seem to learn by doing.

    Regarding the As defense . . . how can I say this. It’s more than just numbers; I guess that does it. Now, I actually think that Beane is quite aware of the value of defense, and furthermore it is manifest that he has tried to improve the overall quality of his team’s defense in the last 2-3 years, in large part I think because he has learned from bitter experience that poor D kills you in the postseason. Beane had been trying for years to get better outfield defense. He acquired both Damon and Dye with an eye very much to what they did in the field at the time; that neither trade worked out long-term is as much bad luck as anything. He acquired Chris Singleton and Bobby Kielty for their D, only to find out that the bat was too weak in both cases to keep the guy in the lineup. He was very interested in Cameron until the signing price went wonky on him, then gambled Kotsay was healthy and came up three cherries there. One could say that Beane’s been building outfield defense for years before he actually had one he could keep. Crosby is clearly an outstanding defender, and that was a known part of his package from draft day on. Ellis was clearly on the team for what he could do with the glove. Yet having said all this, it’s more than the numbers: Down the years, that team in Oakland has had an uncanny knack for making the bonehead error in pressure games. I used to see this from Tejada and in the outfield more than anywhere, but even last year I recall watching Chavez kick a ball away in a close game with the Ms early in the season when the matchup still mattered a bit. Now, this _perception_ isn’t something that can be quantified in a statistical way, so I know that in the context of this blog I’m supposed to pretend that I don’t see it—but I’m a terrible liar, and I see it. I think, in the end, this has been less a matter of talent, but more a matter of lack of managerial and organizational demand—but that, in particular, reflects back on Beane, if you catch my drift. The As have had guys with good gloves, and over time have become, as you point out here, a team with overall good defensive numbers. Part of this is through the subtraction for various reasons of guys like Giambi, who couldn’t field (either of them), Terence Long, and even Miggy the Lad who while having great range was particularly prone to kickin’ it at the key point. But a lot of it is slack managing in the past in my view (Art Howe), and a lack of direct pressure from the FO. Beane is not the kind of guy to go ballistic on an error that jeopardized or lost a game, perhaps particularly because he _was_ a player himself one suspects. But the As could more than likely have used a blow-up on this five years ago. Now, Beane has simply acquired guys who are (more) reliable as well as good, although I think the team tradition of the costly error is alive and well, still. Statistically, this doesn’t show, but sitting in the stands it does. I seem to recall this in several key September games this last year when the As were fading and had to win, although frankly I can’t recall a specific example to bolster my point. Yes, yes, all teams make errors, and it is easy to say “selective memory” on this one. But the As have done it time and again. It’s more than a perception, to me; it’s a part of the team’s reality. Just like Billy is part of their reality. Perhaps he’s not ‘responsible;’ who is, then?? If he gets the credit for acquiring the guys—and universally he does—then he gets the discredit for a team quirk that costs the organization wins—which I persist in thinking does exist. I want to see the As use that ‘great D’ to steal a couple key wins like the Ms routinely did in ’01-’03. That is the difference, to me, between a team which has great defensive numbers and a team which plays great defense. Gillick builds teams which play great defense; he has done so everywhere he has been the GM. To this point, Billy Beane has only built a team with better numbers in my view.

    In considering Beane’s record as a draft-and-develop guy, I was definitely remembering Bonderman, one of the best players, if not _the_ best, drafted during his involvement with the As. And of course a high school power pitcher totally outside the bounds of the whole supposed Moneyball concept, as is well known also. On the other hand, I had thought that Mulder was acquired before Beane became the decision guy, so I definitely wasn’t giving him credit there. By your own statement above as well as my recollection, Fuson was the key individual in most of these acquisitions, but yes, that doesn’t mean that B. Beane should be alloted zero (0) credit for what went right.

    My own view on Beane as a drafter, is more complex than I stated above: I don’t think he has a central drafting philosophy beyond doing the analyticals and getting a guy with certifiably good numbers across the board; if two guys are otherwise equal he leans toward the skill guy rather than the tools guy, that’s all. I think Beane is and always has been far more flexible in his actual approach than outside views would have us see it, and that this is in fact to Billy’s credit. Much of his college sign approach was situational in my view, reflecting the As lack of money for expensive signings and need for an immediate inflow of talent in the mid to late 90s. In other words, if Beane had gone to Boston and gotten a prime development budget, I think he might well have gone on to sign expensive guys with optimal physiques as well as optimal analyticals which in his present capacity he simply cannot waste time dreaming about. Fuson and/or others in that organization may have a ‘philosophy,’ but frankly I doubt Billy really does. The seed of his genius to the extent that he has it is adaptability, and I think that this is revealed in the guys he _trades_ for: Beane is willing to take an incomplete package if he can find a minimum number of the positives he happens to need out of the role-and-roster slot the guy is being acquired for. This is why Beane drafting Bonderman never seemed like a surprise to me; Jeremy was the best guy available in many ways, fit Beane’s preference for front of the rotation starters, and at that particular time Billy could afford him. Where most GMs actually fail is that, unlike Beane, they DO have a philosophy, so instead of actually doing the analyticals and considering the organization’s needs in detail they take the guy that best fits their _image_ of who they want to acquire; that’s another way of saying that most organizations draft image rather than actuality. Sometimes the two prove to coincide down the road; sometimes not. I think Beane drafts for an intended actuality more than anyone in the game.

    Now, this may actually _hurt_ his ability to draft truly superior players, as I was opining less directly in my earlier post. Sometimes, one really has to sign a player on (+++) potential but meagre actuals to actually get a +++ player. Guys who are a sure thing like A-Rod or Prior are going No. 1 or 2 for mega $$$, and are off the Athletics can-do list accordingly. I don’t think Beane bets on (+++) potential, well, ever, and so he never has that chance to dig a diamond from the dirt. He’ll take Crosby for what he can most probably do rather than gamble on Jose Lopez, for example. Now this take on Beane, my own, can be taken as a strength or as a weakness. I don’t think it makes Beane a sub-par GM regardless; he’s clearly extremely able. —If he could just lock Bad Billy in a closet for November and December, he would be absolutely the best GM of his time rather than a finalist for such status. A final aspect of Beane which I, personally, find fascinating is his ability to let people see what they want to see in his approach while actually moving on his own, clearly formulated design case-by-case. This isn’t so much blowing smoke as simply making a clear and specific decision every time he actually makes a decision—but not telling anyone what he’s really doing. People then read global designs they want to see into the image of Beane’s doing, while he himself sublty adapts case by case to very specific goals. It’s called knowing what you want, and Good Billy and Bad Billy both have that kind of moxie by the jeroboam. He’s a fun one to follow.