SANTA CLARA -- When it came to the 49ers' best interests, A.J. Jenkins' lack of production spoke louder than Trent Baalke's draft-day faith, Jim Harbaugh's tersely supportive declarations or the receiving corps' glaring needs.
Jenkins' stature as last year's first-round draft pick couldn't buy him a second chance -- or a second season -- so the 49ers traded him Monday for the Kansas City Chiefs' own maligned wideout, Jonathan Baldwin.
Whereas Jenkins' speed should have made him a sleek target, he had only one reception in 77 snaps this preseason, which was one more catch than he had all of his rookie season.
"I'd like to thank the 49ers coaches and organization for the opportunity they gave me, and I can't wait to get going in KC," Jenkins, the 30th overall pick in 2012, posted on his Twitter account.
The 49ers hope Baldwin's bigger frame (6-foot-4, 230 pounds) will better serve their offense -- with little time to spare before the Sept. 8 season opener. A 2011 first-round draft pick, he's produced 41 receptions for 579 yards and two touchdowns in 26 games (10 starts).
"Both players have been presented a great opportunity for a new beginning with their respective teams," Baalke, the 49ers general manager, said in a statement.
By the time Jenkins got summoned to Baalke's office for Monday's exit chat, it had become evident he wasn't climbing the depth chart. Three newcomers -- Anquan Boldin, Marlon Moore and rookie Quinton Patton -- have virtually sewn up roster spots, along with fourth-year veteran Kyle Williams, who took Jenkins' departure hard.
"It's a little shock because, to us, that's family going out the door," Williams said. "It's not a sigh of relief over here. I hate seeing him go."
A year ago, Harbaugh vehemently promoted Jenkins as an "outstanding" player and vowed an I-told-you-so moment toward the media's "scribes, pundits, so-called experts." On Monday, Harbaugh tried selling the trade as a "fresh start."
"A.J. is a very talented player. He has never been an issue or a problem as a teammate," Harbaugh said. "He competes. He works very hard. There's no reason both these guys can't end up having a great career."
Jenkins played only 47 official snaps last season, and he dropped the only pass that came his way. His speed remained his heralded asset when the 49ers needed more from him, especially in terms of self-confidence, a stronger physical presence and, of course, receptions.
Williams referred to Jenkins as his "little brother," someone he tried to mentor on the field and off. Williams' final message to Jenkins on Monday: "I talked to him and told him real fast: 'Make the most of your opportunity. You wanted a fresh start and you got it, so go do it.' "
Jenkins didn't request a trade, according to a league source. But the Chiefs do seem like a positive landing spot, where he'll reunite with former 49ers quarterback Alex Smith and play under a coach, Andy Reid, who historically adores smaller, quicker receivers.
Wideout Chad Hall, who played under Reid at Philadelphia, said he texted Jenkins after Monday's trade and told him: "You're in good hands, and keep up fighting."
Tight end Vernon Davis suggested that Jenkins "take his approach toward the game up a notch," citing off-field areas to improve such as study habits.
Davis, who heralded Jenkins' potential a week ago, thought the trade should offer Jenkins a great place to start anew. "It can be a wake-up call for him," Davis added.
Chiefs general manager John Dorsey said Jenkins is "a talented individual" whose "skill set" fits their roster. Baldwin, Dorsey stated, is "a hardworking player and a professional."
Unlike Jenkins, Baldwin almost assuredly will make the 49ers roster, unless something goes askew in the next two weeks. He is expected to practice Tuesday for the first time with the 49ers, who play their third exhibition Sunday night against the visiting Minnesota Vikings.
Financially, Baldwin could provide roughly $1 million in salary-cap relief over Jenkins. That is partly because Jenkins' base salaries the next two seasons are guaranteed at $705,797 and $1.02 million. Baldwin has salaries of $1.06 million this season and $1.27 million next season, neither of which is guaranteed.
Harbaugh said Jenkins still could evolve into a top-flight player, referring to the transformation Cris Carter had when he left the Philadelphia Eagles and turned into a Hall of Fame wideout with the Vikings. Harbaugh also cited his move from the Chicago Bears to the Indianapolis Colts in 1994.
"A.J., the why and that kind of thing, I'll just speak from personal experience: I was projected by a team, sent to another team and with the next team, my signature years came," Harbaugh said. "It can be a real positive. That's what everybody hopes for in this situation."
Minnesota (0-2) at 49ers (1-1), 5 p.m. NBC
By the numbers
How Jonathan Baldwin, above, and A.J. Jenkins have fared in the NFL:
2011 Drafted 2012
1st (26th) 1st (30th)
26 Games 3
41 Receptions 0
579 Yards 0
2 TDs 0
Kawakami: A bad mark on G.M's draft record. www.mercurynews.com/sports