Inside The Kendall Trade

Inside The Kendall Trade

<b>PITTSBURGH - </b> Pirates general manager Dave Littlefield tried for nearly two years to unload the burdensome contract of catcher Jason Kendall.

He finally got a taker Saturday as Pittsburgh completed a three-player deal that sent Kendall to Oakland for left-handers Mark Redman and Arthur Rhodes.

"Obviously it's a difficult trade in that we lose a keynote player like Jason Kendall that's been a cornerstone of the franchise or a long time, although we really feel that this trade is going to make us better," Littlefield said. "I think that, if you look at this point in time to our pitching staff, it's significantly better with adding two veterans."

Rhodes, 35, has pitched mostly out of the bullpen in a 14-year major-league career that has seen him make stops in Baltimore, Seattle and Oakland. He is 72-54 with a 4.36 earned-run average and went 3-3 with a 5.12 ERA and nine saves for the A's last season.

Redman, 30, a member of the 2003 World Series champion Florida Marlins, was 11-12 with a 4.71 ERA in 32 starts this season with Oakland. He was third in the American League in road ERA at 2.90, behind only Minnesota Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana and Chicago's Mark Buehrle.

"It's just another team and I look forward to taking the ball every fifth day," Redman said. "I just want to get out there and give the team a chance to win."

Since 1999, Redman has pitched for Minnesota, Detroit, Florida and Oakland. In his four previous stops, he is 48-51 with a 4.37 ERA. Over the last two seasons, he has struck out 253 batters, including 151 during the Marlins title run.

"It's my fifth team in six years, so I'm sort of getting used to it," Redman said. "I'm glad to be back in the National League, I enjoyed it the one year I was there and I look forward to pitching in PNC Park."

He will have to make one adjustment when he moves from Oakland to Pittsburgh.

"I'll have to try to learn how to bunt without breaking your thumb," the Oklahoma resident said. "I did that in '03 when I took a ball off the bat and it came up and broke my thumb and I was out of service for six weeks. And maybe I could get more than one hit in a season, too."

Pittsburgh can use all the hits it can get without Kendall at the top of the lineup.

Kendall was drafted by Pittsburgh in the first round of the 1992 draft and spent his entire career in the Pirates organization. Last season he broke George Gibson's 88-year-old record of 1,113 career games caught to reset the standard at 1,205.

In 2004 Kendall finished eighth in the National League with a .319 batting average last season and also led all major-league catchers in games played (146), innings (1,259), on-base percentage (.399), runs scored (86) and hits with 186.

The biggest change for Kendall last season may have been his improved defense. Never known for his prowess behind the plate, the 30-year-old backstop had just two errors and 10 passed balls. The passed balls were his worst since he allowed a career-worst in 2001, but he's had no fewer than seven in any of his eight full seasons in the majors, not including the six he gave up in 75 games during the injury shortened 1999 campaign.

The errors, however, are easily the fewest Kendall had ever had. Again, excluding the year he dislocated his ankle running to first base, the fewest errors he'd ever had in a season was nine, in 1998 and 2002.

The knock on Kendall has rarely been about his play, but his production relative to the six-year, $60 million contract extension he signed after the 2000 season. With Kendall set to make $10 million this season and $13 million each of the last two, one player was taking up nearly a quarter of the team's projected $55 million payroll.

Pittsburgh will receive cash considerations in 2005 and 2006, but will have to pay a portion of Kendall's salary in 2007.

Without Kendall behind the plate, the Pirates are left with two gaping holes in their lineup. Kendall played almost every day so it was nearly impossible to get a catcher any playing time, so the mantle will fall on the shoulders of oft-injured 24-year old Humberto Cota - and his 56 games of major-league experience - to take over for a three-time All-Star.

Highly touted catching prospect J.R. House, who spent some time with the Pirates last season, has an option left and, though he will likely start the season in Pittsburgh, he could be sent down quickly if he struggles.

"We'll probably go out and get a catcher to add to Cota, but I don't know if we have to designate one as a starter necessarily," Littlefield said. "We do have a good feeling about Cota in the time we had him last year."

The other hole is at the top of the lineup. Kendall may have detested being a leadoff hitter, but he was good at it, so the Pirates will have to decide whether or not center fielder Tike Redman can grow into the position or if they have to shop around for someone to fill the hole.

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