PITTSBURGH -- Jason Kendall was traded Saturday from Pittsburgh to Oakland, giving the Athletics one of baseball's best top-of-the-lineup hitters and most durable catchers and partly freeing the Pirates of their biggest financial burden.
It's the first career move for the 30-year-old Kendall after
nine losing seasons with the Pirates. The Athletics covet him
mostly for his career .387 on-base average -- third-best all-time
among catchers with 1,000 or more career games caught -- though he
has only 12 homers in three seasons since tearing a thumb ligament.
Kendall will probably bat second for Oakland, in front of Eric Chavez, after hitting .319 mostly as leadoff hitter last season.
Kendall waived his no-trade clause to play for a team closer to his
Manhattan Beach, Calif., home.
"I'm just happy I have an All-Star catcher in the prime of his
career who was dying to come to California," Oakland general
manager Billy Beane said. "We feel like we're getting a guy in the
prime of his career who's really motivated and who's never played
for a team in contention before."
Redman, 31 in January, gives Pittsburgh a second left-hander
alongside the fast-developing Oliver Perez (12-10, 2.98 ERA, 239
strikeouts). Redman was 11-12 with a 4.71 ERA last season after
going 14-9 with a 3.59 ERA for World Series champion Florida in
2003, when he was 0-1 with a 6.50 ERA in four postseason starts.
Rhodes, 35, lost his closer's job last season while going 3-3
with a 5.12 ERA, but will be a setup man with Pittsburgh. The
Pirates hope he can turn his career around the way Jose Mesa did
with 43 saves last season following a poor year in Philadelphia.
The trade, made Wednesday but held up so both teams could run
physicals on the newly acquired players, will save the Pirates
about $15 million. They owed Kendall a budget-busting $34 million
through 2007, an amount nearly equal to their 2004 payroll.
"The formula of one player eating up a significant portion of
the payroll just doesn't work," Pittsburgh general manager Dave
Littlefield said. "The easiest example and most recent is A-Rod
[Alex Rodriguez] in Texas. When one player makes up a significant
portion of payroll, it's not a formula for long-term success."
Littlefield initiated the trade talks with Beane on the final
day of the recent general managers' meetings.
Pittsburgh gets a minimal amount of money from Oakland, about $1
million during each of the next two seasons, and will send Oakland
about $5 million in 2007 to partially pay the $13 million Kendall
makes in the final year of his $60 million contract.
Still, the Pirates substantially weaken their offense by losing
Kendall. His .306 career average trails only Mickey Cochrane, Mike Piazza, Bill Dickey, Ernie Lombardi and Ivan Rodriguez among
catchers who have caught more than 1,000 games.
"We'll appreciate Kendall when he's gone, playing for as well
as he did for as long as he did, but to get to where we want to
go, we need more players and some financial flexibility," said
Littlefield, who wants to add more offense and sign a catcher to
supplement backup Humberto Cota.
The Athletics shed two of their highest-paid players in Redman
and Rhodes, who are owed about $15 million over the next two
seasons compared to $21 million to Kendall ($10 million in 2005,
$11 million in 2006). Redman has two seasons and $8.75 million
remaining on an $11 million, three-year contract, while Rhodes has
two seasons and about $6 million left on his $9.2 million,
Redman may be replaced in Oakland's rotation by prospect Joe Blanton (0-0, 5.63 ERA in three games last season). Redman has pitched recently for contenders, but isn't discouraged at joining a
team coming off its 12th-consecutive losing season.
The Pirates' youth movement showed some promise in 2004 despite
a 72-89 record with good seasons from Perez, All-Star shortstop
Jack Wilson, NL Rookie of the Year Jason Bay and rookie second
baseman Jose Castillo.
"Look at Florida in 2003, we were coming off a .500 season and
no one was expecting much," Redman said. "Anything can happen. If
the Pirates can go out and do well, maybe by midsummer we'll put
some pressure on Dave Littlefield to get some guys over there (for
the stretch drive)."
The Pirates also designated left-hander Frank Brooks for
assignment and have 10 days to trade or release him or send him
outright to the minors.