Cubs Bank On Kendall Rebounding




The Deal
The Cubs have gotten next to no offense out of their catchers since banishing Michael Barrett to San Diego a month ago. Chicago made a move designed to rectify that situation Monday, acquiring former all-star Jason Kendall from the Athletics for Rob Bowen and Double-A lefthander Jerry Blevins. Oakland also will contribute cash toward the remainder of Kendall's 2007 salary.
The Big Leaguers
Kendall, 33, is in the midst of his worst season ever in the major leagues, and the Cubs are hoping he can turn it around. He has very little power to begin with, and his offensive contributions are centered around his ability to get on base, a skill that has disappeared this season. Kendall is batting just .226/.261/.281 with two homers and 22 RBIs in 80 games. His .542 OPS is the worst among major leaguers who currently qualify for the batting title. Defensively, Kendall has a below-average arm and has thrown out just 20 percent of basestealers this year. He's making $13 million in 2007, the final season in a six-year, $60 million deal he signed with the Pirates. Pittsburgh already is contributing $5.5 million toward his salary this year, and Oakland is expected to pick up most of the remainder. Kendall is a career .298/.375/.395 hitter with 70 homers, 596 RBIs and 162 steals in 1,625 games.

Bowen, 26, is a defensive specialist who offers little offensive upside. After joining the Cubs in the Barrett trade, Bowen went just 2-for-31 to drop his season totals to .212/.316/.345 with two homers and 13 RBIs in 40 games. He has better defensive tools than Kendall, though Bowen has erased just 13 percent of basestealers in 2007. He won't be arbitration-eligible until after the 2008 season. Bowen has hit .209/.306/.340 with six homers and 29 RBIs in 158 big league games.

The Prospects
Blevins, 23, signed as a 17th-round pick out of Dayton in 2004. He has little success in full-season leagues before 2007, when he has gone a combined 3-2, 0.86 with nine saves in 37 games at high Class A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee. In 52 innings, he has a 69-13 K-BB ratio and has held opponents to a .179 average and no homers. His best pitch is a sinker that has added velocity this season, with Blevins now working at 90-93 mph. He also has a curveball and changeup. Blevins projects as a middle reliever.
Quick Take
It's easy to understand what both teams were thinking with this deal, but it may not have a huge impact on either club. The Cubs didn't have to give up much for a possible upgrade on its previous Bowen/Koyie Hill catching tandem, though rookie Geovany Soto probably would be more productive offensively and better defensively than Kendall. The A's had to pay Kendall regardless, and jettisoning him allows rookie Kurt Suzuki to play regularly and gives Oakland a potentially useful lefty.

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