K.C’s logic in signing Kendall falls apart

The Toronto Blue Jays have reportedly inked John Buck to a one-year, $2 million contract. While Toronto’s shopping may not be done at catcher, Buck is virtually certain to open the season as the starter.

Why did the ex-Royal leave town? Why, because of Jason Kendall. Kendall is the new starting catcher for the Royals on a two-year, $6 million deal.

Cardinals vs. Brewers

Especially humorous about the terms of the contract is the fact that GM Dayton Moore said Kendall would cost less than retaining Buck or Miguel Olivo. Obviously not.

Moore then went on to say that the two best options on the free agent market were Kendall and Ivan Rodriguez — both of whom signed equally stupid deals to “mentor” their young pitching and catching. While I can understand this sentiment to some degree, there’s still no excuse for the contract handed out to Kendall. The fact that Kendall demanded the same contract Rodriguez did is laughable: while Rodriguez’s contract in its own right is lousy, Kendall never did and never will be considered a contemporary of Rodriguez. It’s a massive concept failure by the Kansas City brass. Have we come to accept anything less?

I will give credit where credit is due: Moore showed some forethought in this contract. Whether or not you agree Kendall is the choice, they were motivated to hand out a two-year deal because they didn’t like the options on the free agent market next year. (Dream on, Royals fans: The odds Mauer would go to K.C. was below zero.) By guaranteeing that second year to Kendall, the club ensured his services this year, while not compromising — in their view — 2011. The two-year commitment, in a vacuum, shows that there is at least some intelligence brewing in Kauffman Stadium. (I’m aware of the counter-argument that just because you need a two-year window at catcher doesn’t mean you should hand out two years willy-nilly. I fully agree, but the Royals’ ability to get Kendall on a one-year deal was in question.)

One other note. The main thrust of Moore’s argument that Kendall would be cheaper than Buck or other options seems based on the fact that prior to the I-Rod signing, the club was hopeful at getting Kendall at $4 million or less over the next two years. Okay, I get the sentiment. But where’s the follow-through? Once Kendall’s price tag rose, Dayton Moore should have stepped back and re-evaluated the catcher’s market.

Take Yorvit Torrealba, for instance. Given the rumors surrounding Torrealba, Kansas City would have been able to sign him to a two-year, $6 million deal without much of a problem. Is he a better bet to outproduce Kendall over the next two seasons? Absolutely. The only way Kendall is going to hit a double (and let’s not even bother considering the possibility of a home run) is if he hits a bloop single that clanks off Matt Holliday‘s poor, abused crotch and skips to the wall. Oh, but that ever-important mentoring business: as a Boston fan born and bred, I especially understand the power of this argument given Jason Varitek — and I understand it. But really, is the mentoring aspect that significant with Kendall to disqualify Torrealba? (Even Boston moved on from Varitek as soon as an acceptable replacement was found.)

If he still preferred Kendall to Torrealba, I’d bet dollars to donuts Kendall eventually would have settled for two years at $4 million… or even a one-year deal. Sigh.

The logic Moore entered his catching situation about seeking out a catcher who could remain for two years and mentor the young pitchers and catchers is sound. Where this all breaks down is Moore’s valuation of those traits in addition to his valuation of Kendall.

But hey, at least Moore signed someone who knows the value of taking a walk. Took him long enough to.

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  1. Alex Poterack said...

    Let’s face it, the key thing you need to know about this signing and how it reflects on the Royals is that Kendall won’t even be the worst hitter in their lineup next year.  He might not even be the second worst.  And he’ll have one of the higher OBPs.

    Good work, Dayton Moore.

  2. Travis M. Nelson said...

    Of course Kendall is a contemporary of I-Rod.  Their careers overlap, chronologically.  That’s what ‘contemporary’ means. 

    You mean that he isn’t comparable.  And that’s not exactly true either.  According to your own links at Fangraphs.com, Kendall was worth 1.2 WAR last year, while Rodriguez was only worth 0.8.  Neither is a great player anymore (and Kendall truly was, once) but Kendall is three years younger, catches more games (55 more of them in the last 2 years combined), and does enough defensively to at least compensate for his weak bat. 

    There are various measures for defense, and most of them seem to suggest that Kendall’s just as good as Pudge, if not better these days.  And his ability to take a walk and get hit by pitches makes his bat about as good as Rodriguez, making up for his lack of power. 

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that either of these was a wise signing, just that this one is really no worse – and perhaps a bit better – than the one the Nationals made.

  3. Evan Brunell said...


    I’m of the belief that defense at catcher is not adequately defined yet. While the range of a catcher is great, is it really that important? Even Bengie Molina can lug himself to most all foul balls. I’m more concerned with pitch-calling, bad-pitch blocking, etc. But I have yet to see a statistic that really ties that all in.

  4. ecp said...

    Evan, if you’re more concerned with things such as bad pitch blocking, watching the Royals regularly in recent years would give you an bit of understanding of a large part of the reason why Dayton Moore felt the need to part ways with both John Buck and Miguel Olivo.  Check out their wild pitch / passed ball numbers:  Worst in the majors.  Both of them are abolutely horrible ball-blockers.  Additionally, Buck is one of the worst catchers at throwing out runners, and he’s been getting worse every year.

    As for pitch calling, Royals pitchers have been purportedly happy with Buck, not so much with Olivo.

    I’m not trying to defend Moore, just to say that in some ways Kendall is understandable.

    Oh, and Torrealba?  Everything I have read says that he very much wants to stay with the Rockies, even though he’ll be a backup to Ianetta.  Apparently, they feel the same.

  5. Nick said...

    There is no real reason for the royals to sign kendall.  Again, Moore is geting WORSE through free agency.  He clearly has no idea how to construct a major league roster.

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