On Wednesday, the Brewers signed free agent catcher Jason Kendall to a one-year deal with a vesting option for a second year that will kick in if Kendall starts 115 games this coming season. Since the Brewers traded their '07 starting catcher, Johnny Estrada, to the Mets on Tuesday, the #1 job is clearly Kendall's.
The veteran catcher split last season between the A's and Cubs, hitting an anemic .226 (OPS+ of 48!!!) in 80 games with Oakland before coming to the Cubs in a July trade and hitting .270 with 1 HR, 19 RBI, and a strong .362 OBP in 57 games.
Defensively, the 33-year-old Kendall has been in decline for some time, and last year with the Cubs, the decline continued. Kendall threw out just 5 of 57 (8.8%) would-be base-stealers and allowed 5 passed balls in 432 2/3 innings behind the plate; Estrada, the guy he'll be replacing at Miller Park, threw out 11 of 84 base-stealers (13%) and allowed 5 passed balls in 961 innings caught.
Tom Haudricort of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel justifies the signing by pointing out that the Brewer offense is already loaded (team record 231 home runs last season) and that catching talent is in short supply throughout Major League baseball these days:
What the Brewers want Kendall to do is show some energy, be positive, call good games, work with the pitchers and be on the same page with pitching coach Mike Maddux. At one time or another, Estrada had problems in each of those areas...Not much chance of that happening, I would say.
The Brewers went after what they felt was the best available option, within reason financially and in the relative short-term. They don't expect Kendall to be Johnny Bench.