Catcher – Jason Kendall
This one was an easy one. A strong argument can be made that Jason Kendall is the greatest catcher in team history. Not just during the 20 year stretch of losing.
The Pittsburgh Pirates drafted Kendall with the 23rd overall pick in the 1992 MLB Draft. Kendall made his MLB debut in 1996, and became the Pirates catcher, and one of the National League’s best, during his nine-year Pirate career.
Kendall played in 1,252 games for the Pirates and accumulated 5,283 plate appearances. He slashed .306/.387/.418 to go with a 113 wRC+, he was worth an average of 3.5 fWAR per season, and he was a three-time NL All-Star. Kendall is the franchise’s all-time leader in games caught, and he led all MLB catchers in games caught from 2002 – 2004.
During his time in Pittsburgh, the fiery and passionate Kendall quickly became a fan favorite. He also gave the fans something to cheer about during a stretch of time in which there was not much for Pirate fans to cheer about.
In November of 2000, the Pirates and Kendall agreed to a six-year $60 million contract extension. This made him the second highest paid catcher in baseball. However, he would not play out this entire contract in Pittsburgh.
Following the 2004 season, the Pirates made one of the worst trades in franchise history when they sent Kendall to the Oakland Athletics in exchange for pitchers Mark Redman and Arthur Rhodes. In his lone season with the Pirates, Redman posted a 4.90 ERA and a 4.18 FIP in 30 starts in 2005. Rhodes would never toe the rubber for the Bucs.