With Orlando Hudson going to the Twinkies, the Nationals moved quickly to sign 34-year-old Adam Kennedy, solidifying their defense at second base — and all but guaranteeing that (barring a trade) Cristian Guzman will be the team’s starting shortstop when the season begins. While the announcement is not yet official, Kennedy has said he is pleased to be coming to Washington — because he likes the way the team is structuring its roster. The signing of Kennedy, and apparently for a bargain price, puts the finishing touches on the Nats’ off-season, though Mike Rizzo admits that the team would like to add another starting pitcher. Or, as MLB Network’s Harold Reynolds said on Friday night: “Right now the starting rotation is Marquis, Lannan and question, question, question.”
The signing of Kennedy was necessitated after the Nats’ front office remained adamant on what they were willing to pay for Hudson, who was undoubtedly the first choice to fill the void up the middle. Hudson accepted a one year $5 million deal to play in the cold confines of the new Target Field in Minneapolis. What that might mean for snow dates aside, the Twinkies now look as solid as any team in the AL Central — and have to be an early favorite to win the division title. Not so the Nats, though it seems clear that the team’s off-season additions have more than marginally strengthened the team: then too, Kennedy was a bargain for one year at a reported $1.25 million, with a club second option year. “It should be fun — everybody kind of blending in and ready for a good season,” Kennedy said of coming to the Nats.
In truth (and though it might sound like sour grapes), Kennedy matches up well with Hudson. If the stars line up right, this could be the one signing that team looks back on as Mike Rizzo’s best off-season move. Both Kennedy and Hudson have a reputation for hard play and good gloves, both have experience on playing for winning clubs — and both are ready to recover their careers after suffering through sometimes strange interludes of simply not showing up. Last year, Kennedy hit .289 with 11 home runs, 63 RBIs and 20 stolen bases in 129 games for the Athletics, but during the previous three seasons his presence and play were spotty – and only partly because he was slowed by injuries. His offensive numbers were mediocre. Maybe this was because in his last year in Anaheim (in 2004), Kennedy started swinging for the fences: his average plummeted, his on-field presence seemed an afterthought, and teams started losing interest. He tried to straighten that out last year: with positive results.
This is a good signing, and while a lot of Nats’ watchers might have preferred Hudson, Kennedy is a solid glove man at a good price. And honestly, if Hudson’s wrist acts up and if Kennedy can play more than the 129 games he logged last year, then this decision could turn into another Rizzo miracle.