Last-place Royals downgrade to Kendall

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kendall elbow.jpgThe Royals got 31 homers and 101 RBI in 618 plate appearances from their two primary catchers on their way to finishing 65-97 last season. Now they’re going to someone who had two homers and 43 RBI in 526 plate appearances.
That’s the way it is in Kansas City. Dayton Moore’s two biggest priorities after taking over the club in 2006 should have been acquiring long-term options at shortstop and catcher, two spots which the Royals have generally filled with spare parts and subpar veterans through the years. Finding cornerstone players at those spots is notoriously difficult, of course. But Moore is like a blind man playing darts.
So, now we get Kendall, apparently on a two-year, $4 million contract. He’s 35, he’s hit in the .240s three straight years and he hasn’t slugged as high as .350 since 2004, his last year in Pittsburgh. That his OBP is still adequate is largely due to the intentional and unintentional walks he received while hitting in front of the pitcher for the Brewers. In his last stint in the American League, he hit .226/.261/.281 in 80 games with Oakland to begin 2007. By any measure, he’s one of the game’s weakest regulars offensively.
Whether he’s an asset defensively depends on who you ask. The Brewers seemed happy with him for the most part, though they made no effort to re-sign him this winter. He was often criticized for his glove towards the end of his Oakland tenure. Incredibly, he threw out 43 percent of basestealers in 2008. However, he came in at nine percent in 2007 and 20 percent last year.
That Kendall is getting a two-year contract is pretty remarkable, and it seems rather likely that he’ll be the Royals’ Opening Day starter. Olivo won’t be back as a free agent, and it’s long been assumed that Buck would be non-tendered prior to Saturday’s deadline.
Now, the Royals had no chance to go out and find themselves a long-term catcher in free agency, but there were alternatives. Before he was traded to Tampa Bay, Kelly Shoppach was available for next to nothing. Dioner Navarro still might be. Arizona’s Chris Snyder is another who would cost little. It is possible Moore will go out and get someone to pair with Kendall, perhaps even someone who would do the bulk of the catching. But it’s not like he deserves the benefit of the doubt at this point.
Update – The deal is actually worth $6 million, according to The Associated Press. Also, it’s being reported that the Royals are releasing Buck.

Must-read: A profile on former Rays prospect Brandon Martin, currently in jail for alleged murders of three men

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Nathan Fenno of the Los Angeles Times has an outstanding profile of former Rays prospect Brandon Martin, who is currently in jail for allegedly murdering three men nearly two years ago.

Fenno describes Martin’s erratic personality as he became a highly-touted baseball prospect who then descends into drug use. Friends described Martin has having completely changed into an unrecognizable person. Martin had repeated conflicts with friends and family such that police reports became common and he was placed in a psychiatric facility. Sadly, the facility only held him for less than 48 hours. He would allegedly murder three people upon returning home: his father, his brother-in-law, and a home security system contractor. Martin fled from police, who eventually caught up to him and subdued him with the help of a police dog.

Fenno’s profile is really worth a read, so click here to check it out.

Martin, 23, was selected by the Rays in the first round (38th overall) of the 2011 draft. He spent three years in the Rays’ system, reaching as high as Single-A Bowling Green.

Pedro Martinez: “If I was pitching, I was going to drill Machado, as much as I love him.”

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On Sunday, Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes was ejected for throwing at Orioles third baseman Manny Machado‘s head. It was revenge for a slide of Machado’s which ended up injuring Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. Barnes was suspended four games.

Hall of Famer and former Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez said that if he were in Barnes’ shoes, he would have also thrown at Machado, although not necessarily at his head. Via ESPN’s Scott Lauber:

If I was pitching, I was going to drill Machado, as much as I love him. The only thing I would’ve done differently is probably bring the ball a little bit lower.

Martinez added that Machado “did not intend to hurt Pedroia. And I know that because I know Machado.” And he doesn’t think Barnes meant to throw at Machado’s head.

Martinez, of course, was certainly a pitcher who wasn’t afraid to pitch inside to batters and even hit a few of them when he felt he or his teammates had been wronged. This is an unfortunate part of baseball’s culture and the fact that it continues means that it will eventually result in someone being seriously hurt. It’s disappointing that Martinez isn’t willing to be a better role model now that his playing days are over. Martinez could have set an example for today’s pitchers by saying what Barnes did crossed a line. Getting a Hall of Famer’s seal of approval will only embolden players now when they feel they must defend their teammates’ honor.

The “tradition” of beaning batters to defend one’s teammates is anachronistic in today’s game, especially when Major League Baseball has made strides in so many other ways recently to protect players’ safety.