Well, just about everyone and their mother has weighed in on what they think about the recent signing of veteran Catcher Jason Kendall. I don't hate the signing, I really don't. Kendall had the best OBP out of this offseason's crop (almost wanted to say crap) of free agent catchers. Kendall is signed to a two year deal worth $6 million. Now Dayton Moore says that Kendall was the best fit for the price. Sure he was. But DM didn't have to go out and get a Free Agent catcher. JR Towles, a once super prospect in Houston's minors (sound familiar?) was made available by Houston through trade. John Buck would have been cheaper than Kendall, but Buck's defense was just too bad last year to justify keeping him on the roster. I'm glad that DM has kept Brayan Pena on the roster. I don't think Pena is capable of holding down the starting role unless he sheds some pounds and adds some durability and muscle in the offseason, because I honestly think that he has some half decent potential. Either way, he was somewhat of a bright spot on the roster in 2009.
Now, what does this move mean in the short term and the long term. Short term, it means that we have acquired a catcher who has been spoken highly of his entire career and has been a solid defensive catcher. It also means that we have another hole in the lineup. Jason Kendall cannot provide power. He just can't. He used to hit a decent number of doubles a year, but that number has fallen and he is essentially a singles hitter now. He still walks quite a bit, but his batting average has dropped so severely in recent years that his OBP is no longer a strong suit. It seems that Dayton Moore still doesn't even understand his own OBP philosophy. Last year it was Mike Jacobs, who had mashing ability, but couldn't walk to save his life. This year, it is Kendall, a guy who can draw walks, but also can't seem to make contact any more. But the good from this acquisition and others is that the Royals are trying to solidify themselves up the middle defensively. Kendall only had four passed balls in 133 games in 2009.
Dayton Moore was right, there weren't that many options out there at catcher this offseason. But was it really necessary to get rid of John Buck? Were the Astros asking too much for JR Towles? Is there a Royals catcher banging on the door at AAA? No. There isn't. We all may argue that John Buck should have gotten the nod over Kendall, but lets be honest. John Buck was a disaster. His best season came 3 years ago. I think many of us didn't want to see Buck go because maybe we had that fledgling hope that the Beltran trade wasn't awful, that Buck could put it together for one more year. Fact is, he probably wouldn't have. The Royals may have overpaid for Kendall, but in reality, you have to look at this through Dayton Moore's eyes. This team was devastated by poor defense last year. How many times did we see balls go through Miguel Olivo's legs last year? How many times did John Buck miss the target at second base? Kendall is what he is. This team is better defensively with the Kendall signing, but a lot worse offensively.
But that isn't necessarily a bad thing. When Dayton Moore arrived in 2006, he preached pitching and defense, claiming that if you take care of those, then the offense will take care of itself. We'll see Dayton, we'll see.