Jason Kendall was traded Saturday from Pittsburgh to Oakland, giving the Athletics one of baseball's best top-of-the-lineup hitters and most durable catchers and partly freeing the Pirates of their biggest financial burden.
The Pirates get left-hander Mark Redman to stabilize their oft-shaky rotation and left-handed reliever Arthur Rhodes for Kendall, a three-time All-Star and .306 career hitter.
It's the first career move for the 30-year-old Kendall after nine losing seasons with the Pirates. The Athletics covet him mostly for his career .387 on-base average -- third-best all-time among catchers with 1,000 or more career games caught -- though he has only 12 homers in three seasons since tearing a thumb ligament.
Kendall will probably bat second for Oakland, in front of Eric Chavez, after hitting .319 mostly as leadoff hitter last season. Kendall waived his no-trade clause to play for a team closer to his Manhattan Beach, Calif., home.
"I'm just happy I have an All-Star catcher in the prime of his career who was dying to come to California," Oakland General Manager Billy Beane said. "We feel like we're getting a guy in the prime of his career who's really motivated and who's never played for a team in contention before."
Redman, 31 in January, gives Pittsburgh a second left-hander alongside the fast-developing Oliver Perez (12-10, 2.98 ERA, 239 strikeouts). Redman was 11-12 with a 4.71 ERA last season after going 14-9 with a 3.59 ERA for World Series champion Florida in 2003, when he was 0-1 with a 6.50 ERA in four postseason starts.
Rhodes, 35, lost his closer's job last season while going 3-3 with a 5.12 ERA, but will be a setup man with Pittsburgh. The Pirates hope he can turn his career around the way Jose Mesa did with 43 saves last season following a poor year in Philadelphia.
The trade, made Wednesday but held up so both teams could run physicals on the newly acquired players, will save the Pirates about $15 million. They owed Kendall a budget-busting $34 million through 2007, an amount nearly equal to their 2004 payroll.
"The formula of one player eating up a significant portion of the payroll just doesn't work," Pittsburgh General Manager Dave Littlefield said. "The easiest example and most recent is A-Rod (Alex Rodriguez) in Texas. When one player makes up a significant portion of payroll, it's not a formula for long-term success."
Littlefield initiated the trade talks with Beane on the final day of the recent general managers' meetings.
Pittsburgh gets a minimal amount of money from Oakland, about $1 million during each of the next two seasons, and will send Oakland about $5 million in 2007 to partially pay the $13 million Kendall makes in the final year of his $60 million contract.
Still, the Pirates substantially weaken their offense by losing Kendall. His .306 career average trails only Mickey Cochrane, Mike Piazza, Bill Dickey, Ernie Lombardi and Ivan Rodriguez among catchers who have caught more than 1,000 games.
"We'll appreciate Kendall when he's gone, playing as well as he did for as long as he did," But to get to where we want to go, we need more players and some financial flexibility," said Littlefield, who wants to add more offense and sign a catcher to supplement backup Humberto Cota.
The Athletics shed two of their highest-paid players in Redman and Rhodes, who are owed about $15 million over the next two seasons compared to $21 million to Kendall ($10 million in 2005, $11 million in 2006). Redman has two seasons and $8.75 million left on an $11 million, three-year contract, while Rhodes has two seasons and about $6 million left on his $9.2 million, three-year deal.
Martinez, Mets meet
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- Free agent Pedro Martinez met with the general manager of the New York Mets in his home country, a month after helping the Boston Red Sox win their first World Series title since 1918, a baseball source told The Associated Press.
The star pitcher had dinner with Omar Minaya in Santo Domingo on Thursday night, said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Reached Saturday in the Dominican Republic, Minaya declined comment. Minaya, who like Martinez is Dominican, arrived on Wednesday with his wife to spend the holiday weekend with friends and family.
The meeting is the second time this offseason that the free-agent pitcher has met with an official from a New York team. Earlier this month, Martinez and his agents met with Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and several other team officials at the club's spring training complex in Tampa, Fla. Martinez met with Boston Red Sox officials the next day in Fort Myers, Fla.
Martinez has gone 117-37 for Boston from 1998-2004, winning the AL Cy Young Award in 1999 and 2000. After beating St. Louis in Game Three of the World Series, he acknowledged it could have been his final appearance for Boston.
Martinez is 182-76 with a 2.76 ERA in 13 seasons with Los Angeles, Montreal and Boston.
Last season, Boston general manager Theo Epstein had Thanksgiving dinner at Curt Schilling's home outside Phoenix while trying to persuade the pitcher to accept a trade to the Red Sox.