What Does San Diego See In Kotsay?

For the second year in a row, Mark Kotsay has received a major league contract. The Padres agreed to a one-year deal worth $1.25 million with the 35-year-old (about to enter his age-36 season) on Tuesday.

For the second year in a row, Mark Kotsay does not deserve a spot on a major league roster — at least, not on his merits as a baseball player.

There was a time when Mark Kotsay was a very successful major league player. Crazily enough, much of Mark Kotsay’s productive career was spent with the Padres during the 2001-2003 seasons. Kotsay compiled 13.4 Wins Above Replacement in those seasons, largely on the back of a highly-rated glove in center field. His bat was by no means incompetent, as he posted an on-base percentage above .340 in all three seasons. His home run total of 34 over those three seasons hardly measures up with the high tides of the steroid era, but he still managed to add 36 batting runs above average in his time in San Diego.

Those times are now squarely in the past. Kotsay would have one more good year, his first with the Oakland Athletics in 2004, but his bat would soon collapse. After posting five straight seasons with an OBP above .340 from 2000-2004, his OBP has never risen above .332 since. His hitting has ranged from mediocre (a 95 wRC+ with Milwaukee last year) to bad (83 between the Red and White Sox in 2009) to horrible (49 with Oakland in 2007).

But Kotsay’s bat hasn’t been so consistently bad to rule him out as a major league player — he consistently makes enough contact to get on base at a palatable rate. The problem is the glove.

First of all, to ever believe that Kotsay had more than average talent, you needed to believe in his glove. Never once in his career did he post a batting runs above average total above 20 in a single season. His fielding numbers power many of his high WAR totals in San Diego as well as his initial successes in Florida. Observe:

1998: 3.7 WAR, +25.0 FLD
1999: 1.1 WAR, +14.0 FLD
2000: 2.7 WAR, +10.0 FLD
2001: 3.7 WAR, +7.0 FLD
2002: 5.2 WAR, +9.2 FLD
2003: 4.5 WAR, +20.0 FLD
2004: 4.0 WAR, +3.2 FLD

Since 2004, Kotsay’s age-28 season and his last above-average season in the majors, Kotsay has a UZR of -26, or about -4 runs per season. If Kotsay could still rely on the excellent glove that made him from a role player into a borderline star in the early part of the decade, he would be more than worth the major league contract — and more importantly, the roster spot — the Padres are promising. Having watched him all last year with the Brewers, I can plainly tell you: he fails the eye test as much as he fails the metric test. He made 35 look like the new 45 in the Brewers outfield.

However, the Padres probably aren’t going to be in a position to compete next year. By all accounts, Kotsay seems to be a pretty good clubhouse guy. If he basically fills the Matt Stairs role (except without the power bat) for them, possibly helping some of their young players acclimate to life in the majors, the investment could work out. Still, it just seems like $1.25 million and a roster spot are an awful lot to guarantee a voice in the clubhouse — and little else.




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21 Responses to “What Does San Diego See In Kotsay?”

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  1. Yirmiyahu says:

    Kotsay is either the best clubhouse guy in the world or his agent has a blackmail dossier on GM in baseball. He’s accumulated -1.8 WAR over the past 6 seasons (2041 PA’s), yet manages to secure a guaranteed major league deal every year. However he does it, good for him.

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  2. Hurtlocker says:

    Except for Maybin, the Padre outfielders pretty much sucked last year. (Maybin is no superstar either) Kotsay may be a temporary upgrade.

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    • IvanGrushenko says:

      The question is whether he’s even that

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      • James says:

        No way he’s an upgrade over Venable’s defense or Guzman/Blanks bats.

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      • Choo says:

        Kotsay the player is worthless, no mystery there. Kotsay the bench coach would be an asset, but an impossibility because Kotsay the man still wants to be Kotsay the player. So how do you get around that? Sign Kotsay as a player/coach without the “coach” title.

        I have no doubt there is value in having Mark Kotsay along the rail, looking for clues and helping the younger players make in-game adjustments. The man emits veteran grit like he invented it. The problem is most managers can’t resist giving a guy like Kotsay more PAs than he deserves.

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    • Tony says:

      If you adjust for ballpark they weren’t that bad. wRC+ for each player Venable 107, Denorfia 107, Blanks 103. Venable also offers + defense and speed. Petco is just a brutal place to hit.

      They might not provide the offense you would like from corner outfielders, but they weren’t terrible. Venable and Blanks have been pretty frustrating to watch. They definitely show flashes of potential.

      Blanks seems like the ideal Petco power hitter. Too bad he hasn’t been able to sustain the production he showed in 2009. I am still holding out hope.

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  3. Robbie G. says:

    Seems like a P.R. move, and a pretty lame one at that. Mark Kotsay is a familiar name for Padres fans and maybe they associate Kotsay with better days. Still a waste of a roster spot and if a single individual is more likely to purchase a ticket or tickets to a Padres game or games because Kotsay is on the roster, either consciously or subconsciously, well, that’s irrational, but human beings are generally pretty irrational, to be fair.

    You know that it’s the offseason when we are writing/reading articles about Mark Kotsay getting a contract and/or actually posting a comment about this development!

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  4. Joe S. says:

    What do the Padres see in Kotsay?

    maybe his uber hot wife, Jamie

    http://www.break.com/pictures/mark-kotsays-wife-jamie-kotsay-2038476

    Just sign Mark Derosa (http://www.break.com/pictures/mark-derosas-wife-jennie-derosa-2038486) and fans will clamor for tickets near the girlfriends and wives section.

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  5. potsquare says:

    The wonderful thing about Kotsays
    Is Kotsays are wonderful things
    Their tops are made out of rubber
    Their bottoms are made out of springs
    They’re bouncy, trouncy, flouncy, pouncy
    Fun, fun, fun, fun, FUN!
    But the most wonderful thing about Kotsays
    Is I’m the only one

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  6. Pat says:

    He isn’t a bad bench bat and veteran clubhouse guy I suppose. Last season wasn’t too bad for him but this probably isn’t the kind of move that San Diego should be making. No upside.

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  7. Marver says:

    Mark Kotsay is a former Jeff Moorad client. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some kickback as part of a scheme in which Moorad can fulfill his offseason promise of a “payroll starting with a 5″ by overpaying a few temporary roster spots. Especially with Bell’s impending departure, the Padres need to add a few overpaid bench players to reach the promise.

    Logistically, it makes no sense, especially considering the logjam they already have at the corner OF positions — Venable, Blanks, Cunningham, Denorfia, Rizzo/Guzman? — and the fact that they have a lot of decent players susceptible to the rule V that need to be added.

    A poor move all around; typical Padres. So sick of this shit.

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    • Scott says:

      Moorad is already trying to dump Bartlett and Hudson to save 12 Mil this season. No way does he end up with a payroll starting with a 5. And whatever is starts out, rest assured he will dump and shed by mid-season.

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      • IvanGrushenko says:

        Moorad sounds like an absolutely awful owner. Is he?

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      • david says:

        Moorad is already trying to dump Bartlett and/or Hudson because they are bad baseball players and, in the case of Hudson, roundly disliked in the Padres clubhouse. Extending Bartlett after the trade was among the stupidest things Theo did in his time with the organization.

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      • david says:

        Uh, that would be Jed…
        Freudian slip.

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      • Choo says:

        “…in the case of Hudson, roundly disliked in the Padres clubhouse.”

        Wha?!? There is something seriously wrong with the Padres. Loving the O-Dog is a universal baseball rule:
        – “Absolutely No Gambling.”
        – “No Pepper.”
        – “Love the O-Dog.”

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  8. Alex says:

    possibly one of my favorite Marlins to watch back in the day. now he just stinks

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  9. Nash says:

    Well let’s see how well a club house guy like Thome did in Minnesota…and he has power…

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  10. Tanned Tom says:

    Inexplicable. Kotsay is so not what this team needs. The Barklett and Hudson acquisitions were lame as well. You pick up veteran middle infielders at your own peril, they decline too rapidly. Better to go with a good glove, no-hit youngster. Trade both of them. As for the clubhouse hating Hudson, since when do we care what losers think? None of these players (save Luebke and Latos) will even be here in 2 or 3 years. Underpreformers don’t get to set the tone, sorry.

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