Kenshin Kawakami Rumors


Multiple Japanese Teams Interested In Kawakami

A Japanese team has shown a "strong interest" in acquiring Kenshin Kawakami from the Braves, according to MLB.com's Mark Bowman. Bowman writes that a Japanese reporter indicated that the Yomiuri Giants and Nippon Ham Fighters are interested in Kawakami. But there may be an even more attractive Japanese suitor making a play for the Atlanta right-hander.

Kawakami is entering the final season of a three-year, $23MM deal he signed with the Braves prior to the 2009 campaign. The unknown Japanese club interested in Kawakami is reportedly willing to pay Atlanta approximately $3MM of the righty's $6.67MM salary for 2011.

The 35-year-old played for the Chunichi Dragons prior to signing with the Braves. In two big league seasons, he has appeared in 50 games for Atlanta, recording a 4.32 ERA over 243.2 innings. While his ERA ballooned to 5.15 this season, his peripherals (6.1 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 1.0 HR/9) were nearly identical to his 2009 numbers.



Braves Prefer To Keep Arms, Hope To Add Bat

The Bobby Cox era is over and the Braves are preparing for their first season under Fredi Gonzalez. GM Frank Wren says Gonzalez is "perfect" for the team, but the precise composition of next year's roster has yet to be determined. 

Some, myself included, have speculated that the Braves could deal a starting pitcher away to address other needs, but Wren told David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he'll be reluctant to trade pitching depth. Kenshin Kawakami and Derek Lowe would be potential trade chips if the Braves decided to change their stance and Jeff Schultz of the Journal-Constitution wonders if the Braves would deal Jair Jurrjens.

The Braves would like to add a right-handed hitting bat to the outfield this offseason. While Wren didn't rule out free agents Jayson Werth (bats right) or Carl Crawford (bats left), he noted that both are likely to be expensive. Wren also noted that the Braves are considering many candidates as they search for a new hitting coach (all links from Twitter).



Chone Figgins & Kenshin Kawakami

The Braves lost Chipper Jones to a season-ending injury, so they’ll now give some thought to players outside the organization. Dave Cameron of U.S.S. Mariner believes the Mariners "should be focusing on future wins," so he suggests a Chone Figgins for Kenshin Kawakami trade.

Figgins has more than $28MM remaining on his contract, so the Braves would presumably want salary relief in any deal. Could Atlanta ship Kawakami to Seattle for Figgins? Cameron suggests that would be a good deal for Seattle. Let’s consider the possibility, starting with the two players:

Figgins

  • He earns $2.25MM before the end of the season, $9MM in 2011, $9MM in 2012 and $8MM in 2013. There's a vesting option for 2014.
  • The 32-year-old has hit .253/.343/.303 in 494 plate appearances with 30 steals in 38 attempts.
  • In his last 15 games, Figgins is batting .397/.426/.500.
  • Among qualified hitters, only Cesar Izturis has a lower slugging percentage
  • Figgins has played exclusively at second base this year, but can also play third
  • Recent UZR data suggests Figgins is a strong defender at third, but below average at second.
  • About 17% of 2,000-plus MLBTR readers believe the Braves will acquire Figgins.

Kawakami

  • He earns $1.9MM before the end of this season and $6.7MM in 2011.
  • He has a 4.75 ERA in 83.1 innings with 6.2 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9.
  • The Braves, who removed Kawakami from the rotation in June, barely used him as a reliever, so they shipped him to the minors, where he'll build stamina in case the team needs him.

The Braves have Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrjens, Mike Minor and Derek Lowe in their rotation and appear to lack faith in Kawakami. He is expendable and the Braves could use an infielder, though Omar Infante, Martin Prado, Brooks Conrad and Eric Hinske give the club enough flexibility to get by without making a move.

The first place Braves want to win now, especially since it's Bobby Cox's final season as manager. Swapping a player they don't rely on at all for Figgins would probably help the team in 2010. Figgins has next to no power and has a substantial amount remaining on his contract, but has been an above-average player for a while and was fantastic as recently as last year.

The Mariners wouldn't necessarily improve their chances of winning now if they sent Figgins to Atlanta for Kawakami, but, as Cameron points out, it probably makes sense for the team to focus on winning in 2012. Shedding most or all of Figgins' contract would allow them to spend on other needs. This hypothetical deal would help the win-now Braves in the short term and the win-later Mariners in the long term, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see the clubs consider this swap.



Javier Vazquez Trade Reactions

Javier Vazquez was traded for the fifth time in his 12-season career today, and we've collected reactions.

  • Braves GM Frank Wren told reporters that Melky Cabrera is a nice fit, but he's still looking for offense.  David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution says the $8MM or so saved by the Braves probably won't go toward Jason Bay or Matt Holliday, but he wonders if they'll try for Adrian Gonzalez.  We've got more on potential bats for the Braves here.
  • ESPN's Keith Law says the Braves were "lucky to get a young pitcher as good as Arodys Vizcaino," as he feels this trade was basically a salary dump.  Law believes the Braves' Kenshin Kawakami signing in January was unnecessary, and that led to this Vazquez trade.
  • Joel Sherman of the New York Post has pretty much every Yankees angle covered.  Vazquez was simply the best available option for them.  The Yanks' payroll is up around $198MM against a $200MM target, though trading Sergio Mitre and/or Chad Gaudin would free up a little cash.  The Yanks will try to snag a veteran left fielder at a bargain rate, and aren't considering Holliday or Bay.
  • Yankees GM Brian Cashman confirmed that he won't be adding a big piece (MLB.com's Bryan Hoch reporting).  Chad Jennings of The LoHud Journal has quotes from Vazquez from the conference call.
  • Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports says the Rays, Orioles, and Blue Jays should just give up now.



Twitter Rumors: Doumit, Mahay, Wolf, Jenkins

Collecting some tweets I couldn't quite turn into posts...

  • Four unknown teams are in on Pirates catcher Ryan Doumit, says Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports.
  • The Nationals have interest in free agent catcher Brad Ausmus, says MLB.com's Bill Ladson.
  • The Red Sox have interest in free agent lefty Ron Mahay, says Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. The 38-year-old posted a 4.29 ERA, 7.5 K/9, and 3.9 BB/9 in 50.3 innings for the Royals and Twins this year.  Two years ago he was quite a hot commodity on the free agent market.
  • ESPN's Jerry Crasnick says Brett Myers is seeking a two-year deal.  The Rangers and other teams are interested at one year.  Crasnick wrote a few days ago that the Astros are also interested, while Andrew Baggarly named the Giants as a suitor today.
  • Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times shoots down Danny Knobler's rumor that the Pirates have interest in Juan Pierre.  Nonetheless, MLB.com's Joe Frisaro tweets of interest from the Pirates, White Sox, and a third team.
  • ESPN's Jayson Stark says the Yankees want to resolve the Andy Pettitte/Johnny Damon situations before moving on to Hideki Matsui and other starting pitcher options.
  • White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen told Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune that the Sox are not in the market for a pure DH.
  • The Brewers are making a "strong run" at Randy Wolf, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
  • Ruben Amaro Jr.'s comment that "those are guys we will probably count on" implies relievers Chad Durbin and Clay Condrey will be tendered contracts by the Phillies (Andy Martino reporting).
  • Crasnick says Geoff Jenkins wants to make a comeback in 2010 and has been working out at first base and outfield in hopes of landing a bench role.
  • Crasnick says to expect the Cubs to tender a contract to Mike Fontenot on Saturday.
  • Bill Shanks quoting Braves manager Bobby Cox: "clubs are knocking on the door for Kelly Johnson."  I imagine Johnson will be dealt by Saturday.
  • ESPN's Gordon Edes says that while Red Sox owner John Henry is a big fan of Miguel Cabrera from their Marlins days, the Red Sox "don't have the Major League-ready position players Detroit wants in return."
  • Crasnick expects Elmer Dessens to re-sign with the Mets, though the pitcher has talked to the Dodgers and Padres.
  • Yahoo's Steve Henson says the Braves want to move Derek Lowe or Javier Vazquez, but not Kenshin Kawakami.
  • Andy Martino of the Philadelphia Inquirer says the Phillies will meet with Chan Ho Park's agent today "and attempt to resolve their differences over Park's value."  The Phils did not offer arbitration to Park, a Type B free agent.  Park craves another shot at starting, which won't happen in Philly.
  • Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports says the Phillies like Brandon Lyon, but aren't "willing to pay the price for him."  Lyon is said to be seeking a multiyear deal.  He is expected to turn down the Tigers' offer of arbitration today.  The Yankees have been named as another suitor.
  • Crasnick says the Astros "have very little money to spend, unless Drayton McLane suddenly has a change of heart."



Olney On La Russa, Mulder, Hudson

ESPN.com's Buster Olney breaks down last night's ALCS contest in detail before turning to some rumors. Here they are:

  • Olney can see Tony La Russa returning to manage the Cardinals for a final season in 2010.
  • Could Mark Mulder end up in Milwaukee? His former pitching coach, Rick Peterson, has joined the Brewers, who are looking for starting pitching. Brewers manager Ken Macha managed the A's when Mulder was in his prime. As Olney points out, Mulder won't be expensive.
  • The Braves are determining the trade market for Kenshin Kawakami and Derek Lowe. They're more likely to bring Tim Hudson back if they anticipate a trade market for Kawakami or Lowe.
  • Talks with Hudson should accelerate in the next week or so.



Odds & Ends: Torre, Braves, Blue Jays

In the midst of a tight Dodgers-Phillies game, here are some news tidbits from around the baseball world....

  • Before Game Five, Joe Torre said he wants to (and believes he will) be the Dodgers' manager next season, reports Mike Jensen of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
  • Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes that Frank Wren is in a bit of a Catch-22 when it comes to re-signing Tim Hudson and Adam LaRoche, and/or trading Kenshin Kawakami or Derek Lowe for hitting help.
  • MLB.com's Jordan Bastian reports that new Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos has spent his first few weeks on the job talking to the team's coaches and players.  After talking to pending free agents Marco Scutaro, Rod Barajas and John McDonald, Anthopoulos said he wants to speak to their respective agents in the coming weeks.
  • As reported by Kevin Gorman of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Mark Cuban told a group of Pitt students that he won't be buying the Pirates.
  • Speaking of Pittsburgh natives looking to be involved in MLB ownership, MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan said that Pittsburgh lawyer Check Greenberg's investment team made with members of the Hicks Sports Group on Wednesday to discuss buying the Rangers. 
  • Tommy Rancel of the DRaysBay blog outlines why he thinks the Rays should look into signing Kelvim Escobar this off-season.



Discussion: What Should Braves Do With Their Pitching Surplus?

Mark Bowman of MLB.com has an excellent rundown of the Braves' payroll going into 2010. He focuses on Tim Hudson, who had scouts from the Rockies and the Diamondbacks watching him make his return to the mound last night.

It would seem that the Braves have some decisions to make about their starting rotation going into next season. They currently have Hudson, Javier Vazquez, Derek Lowe, Kenshin Kawakami, Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson

According to Bowman, the Braves have a few different options. They could pay Hudson's $1MM buyout and let him go. They could attempt to trade Vazquez for prospects. They could even trade Kawakami for financial relief, though the return for him would be less than what Vazquez would bring. 

Bowman argues that if both Hudson and Vazquez stay with the Braves, Atlanta's rotation "would be deeper than any of the great ones it possessed during the 1990's." Do you agree? How should the Braves proceed?



Braves Seek Outfield Help In Stagnant Market

Mark Bowman of MLB.com talked to Braves GM Frank Wren about the possibility of trading for outfield help, and Wren's comments paint a picture of a tough market:

"It's not going to be easy. We've been talking to clubs for a while, and most of them are reluctant to make a move right now. There are a number of clubs looking for offense with a power bat. None of us can shake one loose."

Bowman writes that "there would likely be some power bats that come into the picture" if the Braves were willing to offer top pitching prospect Tommy Hanson, but notes the they have "absolutely no desire" to trade the righthander.

Wren went hard after pitching last offseason, picking up Derek Lowe, Kenshin Kawakami, and Javier Vazquez, but their offense has let them down so far.

Which hitters might be a good fit for the Braves? If Wren is unwilling to part with Hanson, how much should he give up for offensive help?



Odds and Ends: Lowry, Kawakami, Lowe, Young

Links for Wednesday...









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