Saturday, December 12, 2009

We Longed For Nothin'

...and were quite satisifed.
(From "Bob Dylan's Dream," The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan)

Jason Kendall, eh?

Pardon my lack of enthusiasm. Also, pardon my lack of outrage. I will get enthusiastic if and whem the Royals make a move that significantly upgrades the roster. I will be outraged when they trade a pitching prospect for possibly the worst everyday player in baseball, not that they would ever do such a thing.

But this move...I think it makes the Royals slightly worse, but really, what's the point in getting upset about that? The Royals have made plenty of moves over the years to make themselves worse, many of them much more damaging than this. Instead, this feels like a rather pointless endeavor, much like the act of being a Royals fan is becoming.

I understand the Royals don't feel like they can increase payroll. That's their call, and I won't question it. But in that case, why not look for ways to save some money and perhaps find a piece for the future? Based on moves the Royals made earlier this offseason, they seemed to understand that they are not contending in 2010. So why not wait until tonight's deadline to see which players became free agents after their teams didn't offer them a contract? Obviously, no big names would be available, but the opportunity could be there to find a young, undervalued piece of the puzzle.

Instead, the Royals spent almost as much on a 35-year-old catcher coming off perhaps his worst offensive season as they would have on a 28-year-old catcher coming off his best offensive season. True, catchers are usually not valued for their offensive skills, and no one is arguing Buck would turn into Johnny Bench. But Kendall only has one offensive advantage over Buck: on-base percentage. I guess we could be optimists and say the Royals have finally figured out OBP is important, but that would be ignoring Buck's vast advantage in power hitting. In 2009, Kendall had 526 plate appearances; Buck had 202. If you extrapolate Buck's numbers to the same number of plate appearances, you get a catcher who hits .247 with 21 homers, 31 doubles, 94 RBI and 42 runs. Not bad. Instead, now the Royals have a catcher who hit .241 with 2 homers, 19 doubles, 43 RBI and 48 runs.

Perhaps Kendall's defense makes up the difference, you say? Based on quotes in the article I linked above, the Royals seem to think it does. While catcher defense is hard to quantify statistically, based on watching Buck last year, it seems the only area he struggles in is throwing out runners. Yet Buck and Kendall had almost the same success rate throwing out baserunners last year. It is possible Kendall is better at other aspects of catching--calling a game, blocking balls in the dirt, etc. Certainly those are important, although the old "veteran presence" canard is overused.

The Royals are still looking for a centerfielder and some left-handed pitching. I'm just going to hope those searches have a more promising result than this one did.

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