Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Late to the Party on the Jason Kendall Signing


On Friday afternoon (summoning the energy to write anything about this team was too much to ask until today), I got a consolatory email from Scott Lucas of The Newberg Report when word came out that the Jason Kendall signing was finalized and that it was a two-year deal for $6 million.

That is what being a Royals fan has come to consist of: Expressions of consolation from fans of (slightly) more fortunate teams.

Fans of other teams feel sorry for us. The team we root for is a joke. The Royals are a laughingstock. We fans are by proxy.

The Kendall signing has spawned a Twitter thread in the antithetical spirit of Matt Wieters facts.

This is the acquisition on the big league level that we now expect. Signings are not simply criticized. They are ridiculed.

Top prospects (plural) are traded away for players in the "Worst Everyday Player in Baseball" conversation.

The statistical argument has already been made against Kendall's offensive utility at countless sites. At this point, it has all been read.

There are some defending the signing as a defensive upgrade, most likely stemming from the fact that John Buck was abysmal behind the plate last season. Well, those making that argument would appear to be wrong, as Matt Klaassen, FanGraphs writer, points out on this piece he wrote for Driveline Mechanics as the 2009 season came to an end. John Buck was the ninth-worst defensive catcher in baseball last year. Jason Kendall was tenth.

We all know Kendall is the lesser offensive weapon. He's marginally (and marginally is definitely the appropriate modifier here) better defensively. He's 35 and hasn't been particularly useful since 2004.

So it only makes sense that Dayton Moore would jump on signing Kendall, who in the first year of this backloaded contract will still make $250,000 more than John Buck will this next year after he signed with the Blue Jays for a one-year $2 million deal within a day of being non-tendered by the Royals.

Then there's the asinine misappropriation of resources in 2011, the year we fans keep designating as the year to look forward to. Kendall, who is likely to be worse than worthless this year, will make a stupid $3.75 million in 2011.

So, in the year in which Kyle Farnsworth and Jose Guillen's foolish contracts (I'm sure there are some I'm forgetting as well) will finally be off the books, Dayton Moore in his infinite wisdom saw fit to throw away $3.75 million on an aged catcher who hasn't slugged over .342 since 2004.

The thing is, up until this point in the offseason, I actually had a spark of hope regarding Moore perhaps having learned a bit of a lesson after his reckless spending spree in 2009.

This signing explodes any hope I had for Moore having learned anything.

Despite the club's assertions to the contrary, there is virtually no data out there indicating that Kendall is worth a damn defensively.

Apparently, the young catchers in the system are supposed to learn from Kendall, who has been in the playoffs in the past. I'm not sure how this is going to happen, as Wil Myers will optimistically make it to AA by the end of the year, and he's the only real catching prospect in the system. If Moore wanted to say that about Myers learning from Vance Wilson, at least that would be a statement that would make some sort of sense.

I doubt that any of us think that Kendall will teach Brayan Peña, who is 27 years old this next season, much of anything.

From all accounts, Manny Piña is a great defensive backstop. Realistically, the offensively-challenged Piña is not likely to get more than a cup of coffee with the club this year.

There is no rationale for this signing that makes any of us feel any better.

We had started to get our hopes up in regards to the limited financial resources of the Royals not being squandered foolishly as Moore started signing low-risk reclamation projects like Bryan Bullington to non-guaranteed minor league contracts.

With this we know that all hope for a better future under Dayton Moore was misplaced.

Yes, he has started to rebuild the minors and at least stocked it with some top arms, even if his offensive picks have disappointed thus far, but that does not begin to outweigh the misspent funds that have been appropriated to substandard free agent talent at price tags far higher than their actual value--both at the time of signing and on the field as the contract played itself out.

This Kendall signing is relatively inconsequential on a small scale but is certainly indicative of a pervasive inability to adequately evaluate free agent talent. It is this shortcoming coupled with the continued insistence upon trying to build the team through free agency anyway that continues to dig the Royals into a deeper hole.

I have lost the faith entirely.

I can no longer feign a modicum of trust in the process.