Another Kennedy comes to Washington, Nats sign Adam

Only hours after the Nationals were officially rejected by Orlando Hudson, the club turned around and signed free-agent second baseman Adam Kennedy.

Talk about being a rebound…

Kennedy, 34, is entering his 11th year as a major league infielder, boasting career slash lines of .279/.330/.391, and hit .289/.348/.410 last season in 129 games for Oakland. Kennedy is best known for his World Series run with the 2002 Rally Monkey Anaheim Angels where he won the ALCS MVP. Adam batted a career high .312 that season, and was paired in the memorable middle infield combo with David Eckstein.

In 2006 the second baseman signed a three-year $10 million deal with the St. Louis Cardinals, but eventually parted ways with St. Louis in 2009 after poor performance had limited his playing time. Kennedy had demanded a trade, but St. Louis simply dropped him. Out of a job the only contract Kennedy could find was a minor league deal with the Tampa Rays. After batting .280/.366/.439 in only 23 games at AAA, Oakland made the move to trade for Kennedy.

Kennedy became an everyday utility-man for Oakland. He started 49 games at second, committing seven errors and posting a UZR/150 of -14.8, and started 78 games at third, committing 13 errors and posting a UZR/150 of -11.4. For his age, Kennedy still has impressive speed, stealing 156 bases in his career, including 20 last season. For the Nationals he will provide a solid upgrade above…no one…and should at least provide a little bit of stability to the infield.

What about O-Dog?

While at one point this week it seemed immanent that Orlando Hudson was going to sign with Washington, the gold-glove second baseman decided that the Nationals were just refusing to put enough money on the table for his services. After hearing offers from Cleveland and Minnesota, Hudson eventually took Washington off of his short list, and last night signed a $5 million deal with Minnesota, only $1 million more than the Nationals were offering.

With Minnesota, Hudson will likely bat in front of reigning MVP and batting champion Joe Mauer, and he will likely be in the playoff hunt. Washington could only provide the opportunity be fist bump buddies with Tony Plush. There will be no fist-bumping in Minnesota. Can you blame Orlando though? In the end, it sure seemed like it was about the money, but for a second basemen entering his 30’s, I’m pretty sure I’d rather go with hitting in front of the MVP and push towards the playoffs.

Ask not Adam what Kennedy can do for the Nationals, but ask what the Nationals can do for Adam Kennedy

While Kennedy appeared to have a resurgence in 2009, the numbers are a bit troubling in some cases. Yes, his batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging all went up from previous years, but his BB% and K% stayed relatively close to his career averages. His BABIP however was up from a career mark of .317 to .329, which leads to the assumption that maybe Kennedy was just getting lucky, or maybe the slap hitting Kennedy was reaping the benefits of a spacious A’s ball park.

Before we get too cynical, Kennedy did steal more bases in 2009 than he had since 2003, so maybe being cut by the Cardinals motivated him to come back in great shape. Improved speed can help raise your BABIP, but by 20 points in one year at the age of 34? Not sure about that…

At the plate, Kennedy swung at more pitches outside of the strike zone than in his career, but at less pitches inside the strike zone. This combined with his walk rate of 7.7% does not lead me to believe he will be a patient hitter in the Nationals line up.

Defensively the court is out on Kennedy. While the metrics say he didn’t fair so well in 2009, they say he faired very well in 2008 with a UZR/150 of 21.8 (it should be noted he only played 84 games). Also, some scouts seem to believe his defense has improved, despite the metrics…

The bottom line is that while he will not be the hitter that Orlando Hudson could have been, and wont be a force at the top of the line up, there is a very real possibility that he will be just as good a defender as Hudson. For a team that needed defense, this was a good move. Terms have not been announced yet, but I’m optimistic that the deal was for less than $2 million.

Here are his projections for 2010:

Bill James – .270/.332/.373, .311 wOBA, 44.4 wRC
CHONE- .264/.323/.378, .313 wOBA, 50.9 wRC
Marcel- .268/.325/.382, .313 wOBA, 56.5 wRC