Former Angel (and Cardinal, Athletic and National) Adam Kennedy has come over to the more Northern side today. He agrees to a slightly surprising Minor League deal with a Spring Training invite. I say slightly surprising because Adam Kennedy is not very bad and has been getting semi-regular playing time for quite a while now.
Kennedy signed with Washington last winter on a one-plus-option contract that paid him $1.25 million last season with a $2 million option for 2011. He chipped in 1 WAR as a part time player and the Nationals paid him $500K to go away instead. This makes me think that there is a higher salary guarantee for Kennedy should he make the Major League roster this spring.
At the plate, Kennedy, a left-handed hitter, does not offer much with the bat but he is by no means a liability. He's more of a below average hitter but that is a solid two levels above the one that Josh Wilson lives on so right away we're getting better. That he gets to potentially offer Eric Wedge another left-handed bat in the infield only helps as well. As does his speed on the bases which is above average.
Kennedy is a second baseman that might be also able to pitch it at third base if need be. He played there quite a bit for Oakland in 2009, but otherwise has been at the keystone sack his whole career. His defense at second ranges from excellent when he was in peak form as a member of the Angel's championship squad to average the last couple of years. It is worth noting that these recent fielding years are smaller samples and are more haphazard then a simple decline, but still it would not be wise to expect him to be a wizard out there.
It's easy to dismiss these types of signings as worthy of little attention and appreciation but this one deserves both. For the former, there's nothing else going on. For the latter, the Mariners just added a sort of mini-Brendan Ryan to the fold. Kennedy's talents and contract allow the Mariners to make him the primary back up at second base and third base which means they can knock Matt Tuiasosopo, Matt Mangini and Josh Wilson down a peg on the depth charts. That's a good thing.
Beyond that obvious point though, this helps because if things go well in 2011 for Dustin Ackley and he earns a promotion to Seattle, Adam Kennedy's presence eases the transition of Ryan over to short stop. Before today, if Ryan became the primary SS, depth behind Ackley at 2B was thin. With Kennedy as an option, the summer infield could conceivably look like:
2B: Ackley (Kennedy)
SS: Ryan (Jack Wilson)
3B: Figgins (Kennedy)
Which is a lot better than our current alignment which pins its hopes on Luis Rodriguez.
Adam Kennedy is not going to transform single-handedly the Mariners' chances for 2011. This is not like the Rangers signing Adrian Beltre away from the Angel's clutches. But while the Mariners' starting roster looks decent in 2011, they were vulnerable to injury. Adam Kennedy does little by himself to change the Mariners average win expectations for next year. What he can do is help raise the floor a little. That's important and accomplishing that for nothing more than a Minor League deal is worth applause.