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Baseball Prospectus on the recent A's trades and re-signing Kotsay

"Re-signed CF-L Mark Kotsay to a three-year contract extension through 2008. [7/9]

Acquired OF-R Jay Payton and cash from the Red Sox for RHP Chad Bradford; acquired RHP Jay Witasick and LHP Joe Kennedy from the Rockies for OF-R Eric Byrnes and SS-L Omar Quintanilla. [7/13]

And so, with Kotsay's extension, we bear witness to the squandering of thousands of acre-feet of ink wasted on the question of whether or not Kotsay was about to become the centerfielder the Yankees haven't had since... well, Bernie Williams may not be dead, but his career as a centerfielder is in the boneyard. Before that, I guess we have to start dickering about what you thought about Henry Cotto, or whether Rickey Henderson's arm in center was the sort of thing you could overlook (I'd say it was, especially if the alternative was Henry Cotto). Or how fondly you might remember Mickey Rivers; I mean as a player, not as a punch line to a Billy Martin anecdote.

I guess I didn't really understand a lot of the fuss. Kotsay's a California sort of guy, and seemed happy to stick around. He's given the A's what Johnny Damon did not, and how many good everyday centerfielders are there out there who were actually available? If you have Kotsay no later than through 31 or 32, that's the last of what ought to be the normally good portion of a career, and the no-trade provisions aren't overly complicated (only eight teams are ruled out past 2006). In the meantime, it isn't like the A's have a standard-issue flychaser like Stan Javier at the ready these days, or any reason to believe that Charles Thomas might do the job, and I don't think anyone should be sold on the notion that Nick Swisher could manage the position on an everyday basis. So a commitment to Kotsay makes sense, for the defensive value and useful enough hitting he'll bring to the table through 2006. It's certainly not a move to be regretted, like Scott Hatteberg's or Terrence Long's.

I guess I'm less excited about the Kennedy trade than most A's fans, and that's even with the acceptance that Byrnes almost certainly needed dealing before next year's arbitration case. The achievement here is swapping out Byrnes and Bradford for Witasick and Payton, with the rub really being getting Kennedy's near-term future for Quintanilla's career. In those terms, it's a reasonable series of risks. I don't see Witasick as a major addition; he's just a better guy to have around than Ryan Glynn, but he seems a reasonable bet to do as well as Bradford from here on out, with perhaps less of an injury risk and without the nagging platoon worries. Consider that a minor gain. In the outfield, taking the step down from Byrnes to Payton gives you a guy who might more properly be a reserve center fielder and someone who has his uses against lefties, but it's less about the relative virtues of the two as it is about letting Swisher and Bobby Kielty play every day; consider this a larger loss than swapping Bradford and Witasick is a gain.

Which leaves you with Quintanilla's career for Kennedy's possibilities, and I'll take that swap. As mentioned in the Rockies' portion of today's program, Quintanilla isn't looking that special, and in an organization that has Bobby Crosby at short and that just snagged Texas A&M shortstop Cliff Pennington in the draft, Quintanilla had gone from prized asset to dealable commodity. Kennedy has always had people like us singing his praises, because he throws strikes, carries a good rep for intelligence on the mound, and who can't sympathize with a guy who's had to grow up pitching for the D-Rays and the Rockies? But his positives don't extend entirely across the board. There are concerns about his shoulder, and just because we've seen all sorts of pitchers do even better than expected once they escape Coors Field, consider the cumulative hitter profile that our own James Click dug up about Kennedy:

YEAR  TEAM  MLVR  AVG  OBP  SLG
2001  TBA   .003 .265 .333 .430
2002  TBA  -.004 .263 .331 .420
2003  TBA  -.018 .261 .329 .421
2004  COL  -.103 .260 .330 .420
2005  COL  -.146 .254 .315 .391

MLVR is park and league-adjusted, so even with a Coors effect, he hasn't exactly been beating the best of the best; he's being beaten by some of the worst of the worst. Now sure, we can chuck all that into the statistical woodchipper of liberty because he's no longer a Rockie, but it's not a happy thing to think about, even for a lefty who can strike out six guys per nine on average.

The real question is what is Kennedy for? Fifth starter, boxing out Kirk Saarloos? Saarloos is probably a better utility pitcher than rotation regular, but he has been effective as a starter this season. It's just hard to invest a lot of faith in him when he's so very dependent on his defense to shut down the opposition. If Kennedy doesn't get that job, how about his being used as a long reliever and second lefty? Not a bad idea, and if Kennedy could handle working more often, he could be a Craig Lefferts type, cranking out 90 innings or more in a setup role. Or is he simply bait for the next big deal? That's the fun thing about Billy Beane, youneverknow. But it's definitely worth Quintanilla's career to find out if Kennedy is somebody who can be rehabilitated into a significant pitcher. "

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