As expected, the Nationals declined their 2011 option on second baseman Adam Kennedy this afternoon. Kennedy is a free agent, and the Nationals will buy him out for $500,000, rather than paying the 34-year-old $2 million for next season.
The Nationals signed Kennedy last winter, hoping to make him the starting second baseman for 2010. But that plan got cluttered somewhat when Ian Desmond won the starting shortstop job, leading manager Jim Riggleman to find playing time for Cristian Guzman at second base. The result was a three-man rotation between the two middle infield spots, and when Guzman started swinging a hot bat early in the season, Kennedy was the one who lost out on playing time. Riggleman admitted he stuck with Guzman too long, and Kennedy bristled at a role that forced him to stay sharp despite getting just 389 plate appearances, nearly 200 fewer than the season before.
When Danny Espinosa hit six homers in a September call-up, Kennedy’s playing time dwindled even further and his future with the Nationals became clear. He ended the year with a .249 average, .327 on-base percentage and .327 slugging percentage. Despite being one of the slowest players on the team, he did become one of its most effective basestealers, stealing 14 bases in 16 attempts by getting excellent jumps on opposing pitchers.
Kennedy, who is now a free agent, becomes one of the more proven names in a thin second base market. But it remains to be seen how much teams will be willing to spend on him when he’s about to turn 35 and is coming off a subpar offensive season.