A's deal catcher Kendall to Cubs
Oakland acquires catcher Bowen, lefty Blevins for veteran
OAKLAND -- A's general manager Billy Beane on Monday made the first of what could be multiple moves before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, sending veteran catcher Jason Kendall and an undisclosed amount of cash to the Cubs in exchange for catcher Rob Bowen and Minor League lefty Jerry Blevins.
Beane acknowledged that the discouraging events of the past week factored into the decision to deal Kendall, and he made it clear that rookie catcher Kurt Suzuki would get a "baptism by fire" as Kendall's replacement.
But Beane stopped short of saying that something of a fire sale had begun.
Oakland placed righty Rich Harden on the disabled list last Thursday, and a four-game sweep at the hands of the host Twins to open the second half extended the A's losing streak to a season-high seven games and dropped the them a season-high 11 1/2 games behind the first-place Angels in the American League West.
"It's a natural question," Beane told reporters outside the A's clubhouse before the opener of a three-game series against the visiting Rangers at McAfee Coliseum. "Certainly with the injuries we've had, we're not in a place we'd like to be sitting right now. It's quite an uphill battle. ... But this doesn't necessarily mean anything team-wise beyond [trading Kendall]."
That said, Beane was asked if he was done making trades. His answer was every bit as direct as the question.
"No," he said. "I hope not. We're always looking for ways to improve our club."
Kendall did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
Acquired in a November 2004 trade with the Pirates, for whom he batted .306 over nine season to start his career, Kendall, 33, struggled offensively in his first season with the A's, batting .271 without a home run. He earned high praise for his work with Oakland's young pitching staff, however, and he bounced back with a solid 2006 season, batting .295 overall and helping the A's reach the postseason by hitting .323 with 50 runs scored in 70 games after the All-Star break.
"He's one of the most professional guys I've ever come across," said Oakland outfielder Mark Kotsay, Kendall's best friend on the club. "He's just the epitome of what a big-league player and teammate should be. But this is probably a good thing for Jason. He's had a lot of success in the [National League] Central. He had the best years of his career in that division, and I'm sure he'll be able to give them a big boost in what they're trying to do."
The Cubs had won 14 of 18 through Sunday and had crept to within 3 1/2 games of the NL Central-leading Brewers.
"This gives Jason a chance to be with a team that is in a situation he relishes; playing for a team with a chance to make the playoffs," Beane said. "I think the people of Chicago will really identify with a guy like Jason."
Scheduled to make more than $13.4 million this season -- the Pirates are reportedly paying $5.5 million of it -- in the final year of his contract, Kendall was batting .226 with two homers, 26 RBIs and an on-base percentage of .261 through Sunday.
Bowen, 26, opened the year with the Padres and was batting .268 with two home runs and 11 RBIs in 30 games when he was traded to the Cubs on June 20. Bowen hit .065 in 10 games with the Cubs and is batting .212 with two home runs and 13 RBIs in 40 games overall. Bowen is expected to report to Oakland on Tuesday and will be Suzuki's backup.
"Like I told Rob, he didn't do anything wrong," said Cubs GM Jim Hendry. "When you get a chance to acquire Jason Kendall, you move forward. I had no intention of trading Rob Bowen a week ago. Things just happened."
And they happened in a hurry.
"Me and Jim Hendry are friends, and we talk quite a bit," Beane said. "This came together pretty quickly."
Hendry confirmed as much, saying talked started in earnest Saturday.
"He knows how to make a deal," Hendry said of Beane. "He never gets out of line asking for the type of personnel to make the deal work."
Blevins, 23, began the 2007 season at Class A Daytona, but was promoted to Double-A Tennessee on May 15 after going 1-0 with six saves and a 0.38 ERA in 15 relief appearances. He was 2-2 with three saves and a 1.53 ERA in 23 relief appearances with Tennessee.
"He's a good, young left-handed reliever," Hendry said. "He's really gotten better and will certainly be a Major League pitcher. Billy's scouts did a good job, as they always do.
"You're not going to fool the Oakland A's."
Said Beane: "I think this works out well for both sides."
A's ace Dan Haren called the news of Kendall departure "obviously sad" and something that, in the short-term, will be "hard to deal with for the pitchers." He also noted that Kendall will be missed in Oakland outside the lines as well.
"My initial thought, throwing out the baseball side of it, was of him as a person, what a great guy he was to have around and be around," Haren said. "It's tough. Everyone's frustrated with the way we've played in the last week or two, and Jason might have been a casualty of that.
"But we've got more than two months left. There's a lot of baseball to be played. If we hang our heads over this, we're gonna get buried even further."
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.