Kenshin Kawakami Rumors

Japan Notes: Penny, Kawakami

Some news about players who could be playing in the Far East in 2012…

  • Brad Penny is "weighing an opportunity" with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, reports ESPN's Jerry Crasnick.  Penny, 33, missed most of the 2010 season with a shoulder injury but rebounded to pitch 181 2/3 innings in 31 starts with the Tigers last season, though he only managed a 5.30 ERA, an 11 H/9 rate and a 1.19 K/BB ratio.  Crasnick hears from a source that two Major League teams were interested in Penny, but it's not clear if either team actually made Penny an offer.
  • Multiple reports out of Japan say Kenshin Kawakami is close to signing a one-year deal with the Chunichi Dragons (passed on by NPB Tracker's Patrick Newman).  Kawakami starred for Chunichi in the first 11 years of his pro career before signing a three-year, $23MM deal with the Braves before the 2009 season.  Kawakami posted a 4.32 ERA in 50 games for Atlanta (41 of them starts) and spent all of last season in the minors.

Braves Still Hoping To Deal Kawakami

The Braves are still hoping that Kenshin Kawakami draws interest from another team that's willing to take on a considerable portion of the $6.67MM he’ll earn in 2011, according to’s Mark Bowman. Kawakami lost his rotation spot last June after losing his first nine decisions.

He appeared in just three big league games after June 26th, partly because the Braves sent him to the minor leagues for five starts. The 35-year-old started today, but is not competing with Rodrigo Lopez, Brandon Beachy and Mike Minor for Atlanta's open rotation spot. Instead, the Braves will trade Kawakami or return him to the minor leagues.

Japanese teams were willing to take on more than half of Kawakami's salary as recently as last month and some MLB teams, including the Brewers, could use rotation depth. I examined some options for Milwaukee earlier tonight.

Japanese Teams Still Interested In Kawakami

Two Japanese teams are willing to acquire Kenshin Kawakami and take on more than half of the $6.67MM remaining on his contract, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The Braves wouldn’t get a player in exchange for Kawakami if they send him to Japan.

The Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, Yomiuri Giants and Nippon Ham Fighters were linked to Kawakami earlier in the offseason and Braves GM Frank Wren acknowledged that he had "a number of discussions" about the right-hander's future.

The 35-year-old lost his rotation spot last year and even spent some time in the minor leagues. His ERA rose from 3.86 to 5.15, though he posted similar strikeout (6.1 K/9) and walk (3.3 BB/9) ratios to the ones he had in his 2009 rookie season.

Rosenthal suggests that the Yankees, who recently heard that Andy Pettitte will retire, could consider Kawakami.

Quick Hits: Guerrero, Kawakami, Johnson, Dodgers

Some links from around the majors as the market for Vladimir Guerrero becomes a little clearer…

  • When I looked at possible destinations for Guerrero last week, I listed the Rangers, Angels, Orioles and Blue Jays. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports hears that the Rays are not in on Guerrero, which makes sense, since they already added Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez (Twitter link).
  • The Braves would like to trade Kenshin Kawakami this spring, according to David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (on Twitter). The Braves have a number of starting pitching options without Kawakami, especially now that they've signed Rodrigo Lopez.
  • D'Backs GM Kevin Towers told's Steve Gilbert that he considers Kelly Johnson's arbitration case a tough one, but hopes to "create some dialogue" before the sides go to a hearing. As our Arb Tracker shows, Johnson asked for $6.5MM while the D'Backs countered with a $4.7MM offer.
  • Longtime Astros right-hander Brandon Backe, who last pitched in the majors in June of 2009 and is recovering from a pair of shoulder operations, told Stephen Goff of the Houston Examiner that he is working toward a possible comeback.
  • The Dodgers signed right-hander Merkin Valdez to a minor league deal, according to Matt Eddy of Baseball America. The 29-year-old appeared in two games for the Blue Jays last year after spending parts of three seasons with the Giants.

Pirates Close To Deal For Kawakami?

THURSDAY, 9:35am: The Pirates seem to be close to a deal for Kawakami, tweets Biertempfel.  He says money is one issue, as is the possibility of the Pirates moving Paul Maholm.

1:10pm: The Braves are trying to see whether the Pirates or Orioles will pick up more of Kawakami's salary, tweets Biertempfel.

WEDNESDAY, 11:39am: The Pirates and Braves are still discussing a Kawakami trade, tweets Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

TUESDAY, 2:41pm: A Braves-Orioles Kawakami deal won't happen, tweets Connolly.

12:54pm: The Braves appear destined to unload righty Kenshin Kawakami, picking up much of the $6.67MM tab.  The Pirates were linked to Kawakami yesterday, but Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review feels they may have cooled on him given the deals for Kevin Correia and Scott Olsen.  Biertempfel says the Orioles are in the mix; Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports that the two teams have talked several times.

Kawakami is not the only available Braves starter; David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets that they'd trade Brandon Beachy in the right deal.

Pirates Rumors: Correia, Accardo, Duchscherer

4:05pm: The Pirates are interested in Kevin Correia, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter).

3:25pm: The Pirates are aggressively pursuing Accardo, according to Kovacevic (on Twitter).

2:51pm: The latest on the Pirates:

Odds & Ends: Pirates, Royals, Sizemore, Matsui

Links for Saturday…

Japanese Team Interested In Kawakami

The Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks are exploring their options regarding Kenshin Kawakami, according to reports passed along by Jason Coskrey of the Japan Times (on Twitter). Last month it appeared that the Yomiuri Giants and Nippon Ham Fighters had interest in the right-hander, but that was before the Braves demoted him to the minor leagues.

Braves GM Frank Wren said this weekend that he has had "a number of discussions" about the right-hander's future. Last month it seemed possible that the Braves could get a Japanese team to pay as much as $3MM of Kawakami's $6.67MM salary. 

The 35-year-old lost his rotation spot last year and even spent some time in the minor leagues. His ERA rose from 3.86 to 5.15, though he posted similar strikeout (6.1 K/9) and walk (3.3 BB/9) ratios to the ones he had in his 2009 rookie season. 

Braves Outright Kenshin Kawakami To Double-A

10:38am: According to The Atlanta Journal Constitution's Dave O'Brien (Twitter link), Wren responded "We've had a number of discussions over the last couple of weeks. I'll leave it at that," when asked about potentially trading Kawakami or selling him to a Japanese club.

9:01am: The Braves have outrighted Kenshin Kawakami to Double-A Mississippi, reports's Mark Bowman. The move gets Kawakami off the team's 40-man roster, though they are still on the hook for his $6.67MM salary for 2011.

The 35-year-old right-hander was solid during his first year with Atlanta, posting a 3.86 ERA with 6.0 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 0.9 HR/9 in 156.1 innings in 2009. Things fell apart last season despite similar peripheral stats (6.1 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 1.0 HR/9), as he put up a 5.15 ERA in 87.1 innings and was at one point sent to the minors. Kawakami signed a three-year deal worth $23MM in January 2009 after spending more than a decade with the Chunichi Dragons.

Last month we heard that several Japanese teams were not only interested in acquiring Kawakami, they were also willing to take on some of his salary. So far GM Frank Wren's attempts to move him have proven unsuccessful. 

Braves Rumors: Burrell, Upton, Jurrjens, Vazquez

The Braves’ main offseason goal is to add at least one outfielder and it seems like they’ll acquire one via trade, according to’s Mark Bowman. Here’s the latest on the Braves’ search for an outfielder plus other hot stove notes:

  • The Braves appear to have shown interest in Pat Burrell, but he may be too expensive for Atlanta. One reason Burrell fits in Atlanta: he’s right-handed and the Braves are looking to complement the team’s lefty-heavy lineup.
  • B.J. Upton may be available, but the Braves don’t seem interested in taking a chance on the Rays center fielder.
  • The Braves will have a better idea of their spending power once they determine whether they can trade Kenshin Kawakami. Multiple Japanese teams showed interest in the right-hander earlier in the offseason.
  • Not surprisingly, the Braves seem reluctant to consider trading Jair Jurrjens
  • Javier Vazquez will become a target if they need to fill a rotation spot. Vazquez excelled in Atlanta in 2009, but the Braves already have Jurrjens, Kawakami, Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson, Derek Lowe and Mike Minor.