A's take Kendall's contract off Pirates' hands
Nov. 27: Completing a deal that had been rumored all week, the Athletics acquired three-time all-star Jason Kendall from the Pirates on Saturday in exchange for lefthanders Mark Redman and Arthur Rhodes. Pittsburgh also will kick in money toward Kendall's 2007 salary, believed to be in the neighborhood of $5 million.
Pittsburgh's motivation for the deal was purely financial. As a small-market club, they have been choked by Kendall's six-year, $60 million contract almost since former GM Cam Bonifay signed him to it in November 2000. Kendall will make $10 million in 2005, $11 million in 2006 and $13 million in 2007. Redman has two years and $9.2 million remaining on a three-year, $11.45 million contract he signed last offseason. Rhodes, who also agreed to a three-year deal (worth $9.2 million) before the 2004 season, has $6.2 million remaining on his pact.
Kendall is atypical for a catcher. He's more athletic than most -- his 140 career steals rank eighth all-time among backstops -- and excels at getting on base, but his power has all but disappeared in recent seasons. Kendall hit .319/.399/.390 with three homers and 51 RBIs in 147 games in 2004, and he should fit nicely in the No. 1 or 2 slot in Oakland's batting order. Kendall's throwing and receiving skills are average at best, though he did throw out 32 percent of basestealers this year, his best performance since 1999. He's a career .306/.387/.418 hitter with 67 homers and 471 RBIs in 1,252 games. His on-base percentage ranks fifth all-time among catchers with at least 3,000 plate appearances.
Redman, 30, won a career-high 14 games for the World Series champion Marlins in 2003, but they traded him to Oakland last December for two minor league pitchers rather than go to arbitration with him. In his lone season with the A's, Redman went 11-12, 4.71 in 32 starts. He has a 102-68 strikeout-walk ratio in 191 innings, allowing a .292 opponent average and 28 homers. He pitches off his changeup, backing it up with an 84-88 mph fastball and a slow curveball. He'll probably be Pittsburgh's No. 3 starter next season. Redman has a career record of 48-51, 4.37 in 139 games.
The A's signed the 35-year-old Rhodes to replace Keith Foulke as their closer, but that plan quickly went awry. He blew five of 14 save opportunities and had a 5.28 ERA in late June, when he began a seven-week stint on the disabled list with a strained back. He finished the year with a 3-3, 5.12 record and nine saves in 37 appearances. Opponents battered him for a .293 average and nine homers, while he had a 34-21 K-BB ratio in 39 innings. Rhodes, who will pitch in his familiar setup role with Pittsburgh, can pound hitters with low-90s fastballs and hard sliders when he's 100 percent. In 551 big league games, he has gone 72-54, 4.36 with 26 saves and 130 holds.
-- Jim Callis
Bowden stays busy, acquires Davis
Nov. 24: Interim Nationals general manager Jim Bowden isn't waiting until after Thanksgiving to start his holiday shopping. He made his fourth deal in eight days, picking up former first-round pick J.J. Davis from the Pirates for minor league outfielder Antonio Sucre. The Davis move comes on the heels of the free-agent signings of Vinny Castilla and Cristian Guzman, plus a trade for Jose Guillen.
Davis, 26, was the eighth overall pick in 1997 out of a California high school but never could crack the Pittsburgh lineup. He totaled 80 big league at-bats over the last three seasons, hitting .162/.236/.212 with one homer and seven RBI. The Pirates outrighted him five days before the trade when they finalized their 40-man roster protections for the Rule 5 draft. Davis missed almost all of 2004 with injuries to his right pinky and right hip flexor. He got just 84 at-bats in the minors, where he has posted career totals of .262/.329/.483 with 112 homers and 391 RBI in 668 games. Davis has obvious tools, starting with plus power, speed and arm strength. But he's an undisciplined hacker who struggles against breaking balls, and he can look awkward in right field. Davis is having a strong winter in the Mexican Pacific League -- he's hitting .270/.343/.629 with nine homers and 16 RBI in 23 games -- and will compete for a reserve role in Washington next year. The Nationals are familiar with him, as manager Frank Robinson skippered him on Team USA in the fall of 2003 (before Davis bowed out with a right hamstring injury) and scouting director Dana Brown was a Pirates area scout when they drafted him.
Sucre, 21, signed out of Venezuela in 2000. His development has been extremely methodical. He didn't escape Rookie ball until 2004, when he hit .240/.327/.353 with eight homers and 46 RBI in 103 games at low Class A Savannah. Like Davis, Sucre is a gifted athlete with five-tool potential but is very raw and undisciplined at the plate. Whether or not he can make the necessary adjustments remains to be seen.
-- Jim Callis
Angels exile Guillen to D.C.
Nov. 22: Bringing a close to a saga that saw Jose Guillen suspended for the final eight games of the regular season and left off their postseason roster, the Angels traded him to the Washington D.C.-bound Expos on Friday. In return, Anaheim received Juan Rivera and Maicer Izturis.
Guillen, 28, batted .294/.352/.497 with 27 homers and a career-high 104 RBI in 2004, but he drew the Angels' ire on Sept. 25 when he reacted angrily to being pulled from a game for a pinch-runner. Guillen signed a two-year, $6 million contract with Anaheim as a free agent after the 2003 season. He'll make $3.5 million in 2005 and receive either a $4 million salary or $300,000 buyout in 2006. He's a free swinger, but that didn't stop the former top Pirates prospect from emerging as a solid all-around hitter in the last two years. He has average speed and one of the game's strongest outfield arms. In 898 major league games, he has hit .274/.322/.443 with 110 homers and 458 RBI.
Rivera, 26, has been traded for the second straight offseason. He went from the Yankees to the Expos in last December's Javier Vazquez blockbuster. Rivera was Montreal's primary right fielder in 2004, batting .307/.364/.465 with 12 homers and 49 RBI in 134 games. He might have more power in his bat, and he also has average speed and a plus arm. He won't be eligible for arbitration until after the 2006 season.
Izturis, 24, is the younger brother of Dodgers shortstop Cesar Izturis and made his major league debut in August. Signed out of Venezuela by the Indians in 1998, he joined the Expos in a deal for Scott Stewart last January. Izturis had a career year at Triple-A Edmonton, batting .338/.428/.423 with three homers, 36 RBI, 14 steals (albeit in 26 attempts) and a 57-30 strikeout-walk ratio in 99 games. A career .269 hitter before 2004, Izturis emphasizes contact to the exclusion of power. He has solid range, an average arm and the ability to play either shortstop or second base. For Montreal, he hit a soft .206 in 32 games. Any chance he had of starting for the Expos ended when they signed free-agent Cristian Guzman to a four-year contract. Izturis' future in the shortstop-laden Angels organization probably will be as a utilityman.
-- Jim Callis
Padres get Williams as M's clear roster space
Nov. 19: The Mariners were looking to open a spot on their 40-man roster, and they feared losing Randy Williams on waivers if they tried to remove him. So they did the next-best thing, trading him to the Padres for low-level outfield prospect Billy Hogan.
Williams, a 29-year-old left-hander, signed with the Cubs as a 12th-round pick out of Lamar in 1997. But he was rarely healthy in the Chicago system, missing all of 1997, pitching just three innings in 1998 and being sidelined for all of 2000 following elbow surgery. After sitting out 2001, he resurfaced in the independent Central League in 2002 before signing with Seattle that September. The Mariners have had success signing southpaws from Indy leagues, also finding Bobby Madritsch and George Sherrill via that route. They named Williams the pitcher of the year on a prospect-studded staff at Triple-A Tacoma this year, going 7-2, 3.63 with eight saves in 50 games. In 79 innings, he had a 64-46 strikeout-walk ratio while allowing a .230 average and six homers. His best pitch is his slider, and he also has a solid fastball. Williams had just returned home after the minor league season when injuries created a need for him in Seattle, where he had a 5.79 ERA in six appearances. His career record in the minors is 17-9, 3.69 with 12 saves in 113 games.
Hogan, 21, was a fifth-round pick out of Chandler-Gilbert (Ariz.) CC in 2003. His bat is his best tool, but after hitting .344 at Rookie-level Idaho Falls in his pro debut he had a disappointing encore. Hogan batted just .219/.293/.319 with three homers and 28 RBI in 74 games between low Class A Fort Wayne and short-season Eugene. He also moved from third base to the outfield because he's a defensive liability, and his immaturity disappointed the Padres.
-- Jim Callis
Padres, Royals fill minor needs
Nov. 8: The first trade of the offseason wasn't a blockbuster, but it accomplished what most general managers are searching for when they make a deal: It filled needs. The Royals got a stopgap outfielder in Terrence Long, while the Padres added an innings-eating lefthander in Darrell May. The teams also exchanged command-challenged righthanders on Tuesday, with Dennis Tankersley heading to Kansas City and Ryan Bukvich going to San Diego.
Long will make $4.7 million in 2005 while May will earn $3.225 million, so the Padres kicked in just less than $1 million to even things out as each player enters the final year of his contract.
Long, 28, will compete with Abraham Nunez for the starting job in right field, and could see time at all three positions as a fourth outfielder. Defensively, he fits best in left field. Long split time between all three outfield positions last year, his first with the Padres, batting .295/.335/.420 in 136 games with career lows in home runs (three), RBIs (28) and at-bats (288). He slugged a little better outside of Petco Park (.435 to .398) and enjoys more success against righthanders than lefties (.780 OPS vs. .590). He's a good athlete but not much of a basestealer or defender and fits best in left field. He has .268/.319/.411 career averages with 63 home runs and 321 RBIs in 741 games.
May, 32, led the Royals in wins and innings pitched the last two seasons, but leaves town as Kansas City tries to clear space in the rotation for younger arms. He works the strike zone with an upper-80s fastball, curveball, slider and an above-average changeup that's his best pitch. His 10-8, 3.77 performance in 2003 looks more like a career year after he went 9-19, 5.61 in 31 starts in 2004. He led the American League in losses. He had a 120-55 strikeout-walk ratio and allowed a .306 average and 38 homers in 186 innings. May, whose career record is 25-39, 4.98 in 137 games (88 starts), should be helped by pitching in spacious Petco Park.
Tankersley, 24, once was regarded as the top pitching prospect in the Padres organization after they acquired him from the Red Sox in a 2000 trade for Ed Sprague. Now he'll compete for a spot at the end of the Royals rotation or the bullpen. He has been unable to locate his low-90s fastball and once-plus slider in the majors, though he continues to succeed in the minors. He went 7-4, 3.15 at Triple-A Portland in 2004, but 0-5, 5.15 in nine games with San Diego. He has a 1-10, 7.61 career record in 27 big league games (16 starts), with a 68-61 K-BB ratio, 13 homers and .290 opponent average in 86 innings.
Bukvich, 26, was an 11th-round pick out of Mississippi in 2000. He has spent the past three seasons shuttling between Kansas City and Triple-A Omaha, and he'll try to win a job in the Padres bullpen. Bukvich's fastball reaches 96 mph, but he often leaves it up in the zone to get hammered or fails to locate it at all. Once he falls behind, he can't use his average splitter or slurvy slider. In 2004, Buckvich went 3-4, 4.37 with seven saves at Triple-A Omaha and had a 3.68 ERA in 14 big league innings. His major league career totals are 2-0, 6.54 in 44 games, with a 35-35 K-BB ratio, four homers and a .268 average in 43 innings.
-- Will Kimmey