So Much for Upgrading Middle Infield Defense

Posted by Dave Nichols | Friday, February 05, 2010 | , , , , | 10 comments »

The Washington Nationals have reportedly signed 2B Adam Kennedy to a one-year, $1.25 M contract, with a $2.0M ption for 2011.

Kennedy, 33, played with Oakland last season and hit .289/.348/.410 with 11 home runs, 6 RBIs and 20 SBs.

The move signifies that Cristian Guzman will continue to play shortstop and the Nats plan on starting the season with Ian Desmond playing every day in Triple-A Syracuse.

So much for Mike Rizzo's stated goal of improving the middle infield defense this off-season.  If it's possible, it could be even worse than last year.

Kennedy played 50 games at second base last season for the A's.  He was a whopping -14.8 UZR/150, meaning he was almost 15 runs worse than the average second baseman in the league last season.  

Despite a small resurgence with his bat last season, Kennedy is a player that is getting old very fast, and now he's blocking a promising young player from getting valuable playing time in the majors while the Nats can afford to do it.

10 comments

  1. Todd Boss // February 5, 2010 at 10:54 AM  

    If you're going to trash Kennedy's 2009 UZR/150, then how do you explain his 2008 value of 21.8? Or his career value of 8.2? You don't think that perhaps it was a too-small sample size or due to Oakland constantly shuttling him back and forth between 2nd and 3rd?

    http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=19&position=2B

    Also, look at his splits last year playing 2nd versus 3b

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/split.cgi?n1=kennead01&year=2009&t=b

    As a 2nd baseman he had a 122 ops+, where as a 3rd baseman he had a 91 ops. You don't think maybe his entire season was affected by Oakland moving him all over the field?

    At 1.25M he's a far far better value than Hudson at 5M. And he's a stop gap til Desmond remembers how to throw the ball to first base every time.

  2. Dave Nichols // February 5, 2010 at 11:10 AM  

    Todd, thanks for the comment. i'm willing to acknowledge that Kennedy got shifted around a lot last season, and he's historically been an ok 2B. but i'm afraid his age and injury history have caught up with him. i think it's a mistake he's going to play here everyday and relegate Desmond to the minors.

    frankly, i don't care about the money value difference between Hudson and Kennedy. it just means the Nats chose the cheaper player. again.

  3. southdarden // February 5, 2010 at 11:43 AM  

    The difference between Kennedy and Hudson is marginal at best. If you look at the career numbers, they're not far off. Kennedy's offensive numbers were actually better than Hudson's last year and let's not forget that Hudson got benched in the playoffs because he was so awful down the stretch for our old buddy Ronnie B.

    At the end of the day, money being equal, of course Hudson's going to take the team that's made the playoffs 5 of the last 8 seasons, over the franchise that has done so once in 40 years.

    He got $5 mill from the Twins, so we'd probably need to go at least another million to pull him away from a playoff team. Is the difference between Hudson and Kennedy worth 3.75 or more likely 4.75 million? I think not, and if I were the Lerners, I'd definitely think not.

  4. Dave Nichols // February 5, 2010 at 12:12 PM  

    i'm not arguing the difference in talent or money between Hudson and Kennedy. i was against either signing (you can read any of my anit-Hudson columns).

    what i'm against is letting Desmond waste a productive year in Triple-A.

    i'm sure it won't take too long for either Guz or Kennedy to end up on the DL. just hope Pete Orr doesn't get the call over Desmond.

  5. Todd Boss // February 5, 2010 at 12:53 PM  

    Dave, how can you possibly say "the Nats chose the cheaper player" here and keep a straight face?

    They wanted Hudson. They courted Hudson for weeks. They negotiated with Hudson but didn't want to over pay. The MINUTE Hudson went elsewhere they went with Kennedy.

    The "cheaper" option IS Desmond, at mlb min salary, versus paying a guy three times the min to get better defense and proven offensive production.

    The whole "Lerners are cheap" BS is lazy writing. Perhaps in 2007 they were cheap. However the money they offered Teixeira, the money they've spent this offseason to get some stop gap measures certainly shows they're not that cheap. You can't offer a guy $20M/year and compete with the Yankees and still be considered cheap.

  6. Dave Nichols // February 5, 2010 at 2:32 PM  

    Todd, I appreciate the banter here.

    you can make all the offers you want, but if you don't sign the guy, it's not progress.

    They drew a line in the sand with Hudson that they weren't going to pay him more than $4M, and he signed with the Twins for $5M.

    They offered Kennedy $1.25 and he took it. That's cheaper than what they offereed Hudson for the same job.

    I'm not saying "The Lerners are teh cheap!" I'm simply saying that Rizzo drew an arbitrary line in the sand with Hudson. It WAS about the money.

    FWIW, they wasted money on Rodriguez.

  7. Todd Boss // February 5, 2010 at 7:22 PM  

    From published reports, Nats offered $4M with incentives to $5. Twins offered $5M flat, and Cleveland offered a three year deal back loaded have the deal average about $5M per.

    It was a no brainer from Hudson's viewpoint: a near-playoff team versus two last place teams for comparable money. I'm surprised it took him as long as it did.

    Enough about Hudson. Here's side-by-side numbers for each guy in 2009:

    Hudson: .283/.357/.417, 9hrs, 109 ops+, 2.9 war
    Kennedy: .289/.348/.410, 11hrs, 101 ops+, 1.7 war

    Kennedy has almost identical batting numbers and is a better defensive player. For 1/3 the price. You improve the middle-infield defense for 1/2 a season, dump one of Kennedy or Guzman at the trade deadline and give Desmond one more half season to work on defense and find a position. I don't have a problem with this kind of acquisition; its more about dollars and cents; its about value of your FA dollar. Maybe with the $3.5M saved we can throw an incentive-laden deal at Wang and catch lightening in a bottle.

    Its obvious from the lengths to which Rizzo wanted a FA 2nd base that the front office doesn't believe Desmond is ready to play. We're not there day-to-day; maybe Riggleman noticed a huge immaturity or an ego issue. Maybe he really has just never focused on his defense.

  8. Todd Boss // February 5, 2010 at 7:43 PM  

    As far as Pudge goes; really i don't see why everyone was so up in arms about this deal. $3m/year for a backup catcher might seem high, but he's one of the best catchers of all time. Schneider signed on with the Mets to be their backup 2yrs $2.75M. Who would you rather have?

    Its obvious the Nats needed a FA catcher. Nieves and Bard were so god-awful last year. Flores obviously is hurt worse than we think.

    Was it about the money? Was this the nationals taking the "Cheap route. Again?"

    I have zero problem getting a future hall of fame backup catcher to mentor our budding star in Flores and our pitching staff. Everywhere he's gone, the starter's ERA has improved. He's still good defensively apparently (not really many good stats out there for catcher defense).

    Bottom line: He hits better than either guy we threw out there last year, so he improves the team. And he spells Flores once or twice a week once he's healthy. works for me.

  9. Dave Nichols // February 5, 2010 at 8:46 PM  

    sorry Todd. Pudge does not hit anymore. he hit .249/.280/.384 last year. IF he's the backup is one thing. But he doesn't think he's a backup. He signed a two year deal to get to 3000 hits. he thinks he's going to be the everyday catcher.

    he used to be one of the best catchers of all time. to say he's a shell of his prime is being demeaning to shells.

    i guess we'll let history judge whether it was a good signing.

  10. Todd Boss // February 5, 2010 at 9:03 PM  

    Does it really matter what Pudge thinks he is? If Flores is healthy (emphasis on IF) then Flores is playing. You can't possibly think that Flores wouldn't start over Pudge if he's 100% ready.

    And ... if Flores is NOT ready to go, would you rather have Pudge or the definition of replacement player in Bard or Nieves? Yeah he's not Victor Martinez but he's better than any other option we had. Our AAA guys were worse than replacement players and our AA guy got released in the off season.

    I guess everyone is all worked up about $3M/year "wasted" on a backup catcher. $3M/year to Kendall by Kansas City is ridiculous. $3M/year to Pudge is called "buying some credibility."

    Meanwhile, i don't hear a peep about teams paying TWICE that to make their problems go away. Juan Pierre, Eric Byrnes, Julio Lugo. Each of those guys cost their teams twice what Pudge is getting just to go away. So lets put things in perspective. Maybe this isn't a comment about your post so much as it is about other "pundits" who killed the move over and over.