Anderson Hernandez, Alberto Gonzalez, Ronnie Belliard, Pete Orr, Willie Harris, Ian Desmond...Alex Cintron? If you're asking yourself why the Washington Nationals went out and signed 34-year-old free agent infielder Adam Kennedy after falling short in their pursuit of Orlando Hudson, (who took a guaranteed $5 million from Minnesota over what MLB.com's Bill Ladson ended up reporting via Twitter was a one-year/$4 million dollar offer from the Nationals, which included, "...incentives that could have brought the value of the contract to $5 million,") go back and read the list of players that starts this paragraph. Cristian Guzman is still not 100% after having offseason shoulder surgery, and the Nationals reportedly aren't 100% sure Ian Desmond's ready to play short on an everyday basis in the majors.
Adam Kennedy's played an average of a little over 123 games per season since he started his MLB career by playing 33 games with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1999 after his August 21st debut, which came just two years after the Cards' selected Kennedy with their 1st Round pick, 20th overall out of Riverside, California and Cal State Northridge. In the only season outside of the first that he's played less than 115 games, in 2007, the then-31-year-old infielder played just 87 games before going down with a torn medial meniscus in his right knee. Kennedy was back on the field in 2008, playing 115 games for the St. Louis Cardinals after which he was released...eventually ending up in Oakland where he put one of his best seasons offensively in 2009, while struggling defensively playing third for the first time in his career and even showing signs of decline at second.
Asked by Washington Post writer Chico Harlan in a quick Q&A entitled, "Riggleman on Kennedy signing" if he thought Adam Kennedy addressed need for improved defense in DC, the Nats' skipper Jim Riggleman responded:
"Well (defense is) always important with every club, but it becomes more important when you have pitchers who throw ground balls, and we kind of do. In particular Lannan and Marquis and Stammen. It becomes pretty vital to be able to cover some ground out there and make the plays when you've got guys who will be getting ground balls. We get the ultimate there with the coverage we get from Zimmerman, and we hope we can get more of the same from Kennedy."
?'s For the DC Faithful...
Have the Nationals actually improved their defense though? Did Riggleman really say the Nationals "kind of" have groundball pitchers? Does he tune out during Rizzo interviews? With Adam Dunn at first for a whole year and Adam Kennedy coming off a down year defensively, what will the Nationals get from the right side of the infield? Third base will be okay, but there are question marks at each of the other three infield positions: Will Crisitian Guzman recover fully in time for Opening Day? Will Adam Kennedy rebound from last seasons struggles? Will Dunn be exposed defensively in a full season at first?
One More Pitcher?
Jarrod Washburn? John Smoltz? Livan Hernandez? At the end of another interview with Jim Riggleman, entitled, "Riggleman on Kennedy", .html" target="_blank">MASNSports.com's Byron Kerr mentions that after adding Adam Kennedy, DC GM Mike Rizzo, "...is still shopping for one more veteran starting pitcher to complete the Nats offseason wish list." From the original list of pitchers Mr. Rizzo and Washington Post writer Chico Harlan discussed in a September '09 article entitled, "Reading Materials, Shopping LIsts", only Washburn, Smoltz, and Braden Looper remain. The Nationals have reportedly shown interest in in two free agent pitchers: right-hander Chien-Ming Wang and lefty Noah Lowry. Pedro Martinez? I'm not sure where Mike Rizzo's going to turn if he's serious about adding another arm...Will Rizzo be able to pull off a long-rumored trade to get the extra pitcher he's still after?