Jason Kendall: Another Story That Won’t Die

About halfway down the page of a recent Baseball Prospectus chat with Chris Kahrl there is an item that caught my attention. Okay, it caught Charlie Wilmoth’s attention and Charlie’s comment caught mine.

The question has to do with Sean Burroughs and whether he might be a candidate for a deal to the Pirates for, say, Jason Kendall. It’s an idea that certainly should hold considerable appeal for Bucs fans. Unfortunately, for a trade to work, unless there is someone asleep at the wheel, it helps if it benefits (or at least gives the appearance of benefiting) both parties.

Here’s a quick look at Kendall and San Diego’s current catcher, Ramon Hernandez:

          RH     JK
01 OPS+   93     80
02 OPS+   70     83
03 OPS+  112    115
04 OPS+  116    110
01-04 WS  57     67
05 age    29     31
05 sal     2.4M   9.5M
06 sal    --     10.5M
07 sal    --     12.5M

A few things stand out:

  • Kendall isn’t significantly, if at all, better than Hernandez
  • Kendall is two years older
  • Kendall is a great deal more expensive; $7M more next year (the Pads, you will remember, have about $9M to work with this off-season) and about $30M over the next three years

Personally I’d call Kendall for Hernandez pretty close to a wash on a pure talent level. The difference in win shares from 2001 to 2004 is a little misleading. Kendall had 25 this year, to Hernandez’ 13. Kendall also had 226 more plate appearances.

But even if we concede a small advantage to Kendall, is it worth an extra $30M? If you’re George Steinbrenner, and you don’t have a shiny Kendall in your collection, then maybe the answer is yes. If you’re the Padres and operating near maximum budget (i.e., the amount they’re willing to spend), then it’s a pretty resounding no.

If the Pirates would take back Jay Payton and Terrence Long, then that would make up the $7M difference between the two catchers. That leaves the Padres down $23M and a third baseman. What do the Bucs have at the hot corner now, Rob Mackowiak? Okay, so he comes to San Diego. So now what have we got, other than a mess? We have this:

Burroughs, Hernandez, Long, Payton for Kendall, Mackowiak, $23M

Payton is still just a year removed from a pretty outstanding season and could bounce back. Burroughs will be 24 next year and remains a decent bet to break out within the next couple of seasons. Pads would need a good young player in return to part with these guys (particularly Burroughs, whose value now is probably as low as it ever will be). How about John Van Benschoten? Let the Pirates keep some of their cash:

Burroughs, Hernandez, Long, Payton for Kendall, Mackowiak, Van Benschoten, $15M

Seems kinda far-fetched to me. Then again, stranger things have happened…

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