Munenori Kawasaki Rumors

Blue Jays Designate Danny Valencia, Ezequiel Carerra

The Blue Jays have designated 3B/OF Danny Valencia and outfielder Ezequiel Carrera for assignment, Scott MacArthur of TSN tweets. The Jays also recalled middle infielder Munenori Kawasaki and optioned righty Ryan Tepera. The moves were likely made so that the team could add newcomers Ben Revere and Mark Lowe to their active roster, although those moves haven’t yet been announced.

Valencia, 30, is in the midst of a strong offensive season, hitting .296/.331/.506 in 173 plate appearances. With Devon Travis on the DL, though, the Jays were short in the middle infield, so Kawasaki will join the team instead. It’s still a bit surprising that the Jays would designate Valencia, however, given that the addition of Lowe will leave them with 13 pitchers on their staff. Valencia is making just $1.68MM this year, and he could become an attractive target in a trade or on the waiver wire, given his strong hitting this season (even if it’s somewhat out of character) and his ability to hit lefties and play third base, first base and outfield. He has also appeared in three games at second for the Jays this year.  Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos says he expects Valencia will be claimed, as Sportsnet.ca’s Ben Nicholson-Smith tweets.

Carerra, 28, was batting .279/.327/.374 in 164 plate appearances this year. He became somewhat superfluous, however, with the Jays’ trade for fellow lefty hitter Revere. Carrera is a career .259/.311/.349 hitter in parts of five seasons also spent with the Indians, Phillies and Tigers.


Blue Jays Notes: Hamels, Travis, Kawasaki, Norris

Earlier this afternoon, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that the Blue Jays have reached out to the Phillies and inquired on Cole Hamels, but Shi Davidi of Sportsnet hears from a source that those discussions occurred months ago. The gap in talks isn’t exactly surprising, given that the reported outcome was that Hamels was unwilling to waive his limited no-trade protection to approve a deal to Toronto. Davidi reports that GM Alex Anthopoulos is unlikely to subtract from the big league roster to add immediate help, and he seems unconvinced that the Blue Jays would seriously consider parting with either left-hander Daniel Norris or right-hander Jeff Hoffman, both of whom are deemed vital components of the club’s future. Toronto has $5-8MM of available payroll to make in-season additions, per Davidi, so even if Hamels had been comfortable with a trade, the teams would still have some hurdles to clear in terms of salary. Hamels is earning $23.5MM this season — of which about $17.46MM remains.

Here’s more on the Blue Jays…

  • The Blue Jays announced last night that rookie sensation Devon Travis has been placed on the 15-day DL with inflammation in his shoulder. Travis’ DL stint is back-dated to when he last played on May 17. There’s no indication that Travis is slated to miss a large chunk of time, so it seems likely that he could return to the club in early June. In the meantime, Toronto has selected the contract of fan favorite utility infielder Munenori Kawasaki, who will join the club for tonight’s series opener in Seattle. The 33-year-old Kawasaki has batted .244/.327/.302 over the past two seasons in part-time duty with Toronto.
  • In a notebook piece from last night, Davidi writes that manager John Gibbons feels that Daniel Norris isn’t far from a return to the Majors. “His last outing was pretty good,” said Gibbons. “We just want to see that a couple of times, a few times maybe, for his own benefit. … We’re looking to get him back. He got here so quick, he started to struggle, you want to make sure what you did by sending him down was worthwhile, that he’s regrouped enough, instead of rushing him back.” Norris has a 2.50 ERA with 20 strikeouts against nine walks in 18 innings since his demotion to the minors.
  • Also of note on the prospect front for Jays fans, assistant GM Tony LaCava said that Jeff Hoffman’s pro debut was a success, as his fastball topped out at 99 mph and he was able to throw five innings in his first start. Hoffman, selected ninth overall in the 2014 draft, didn’t pitch for the Jays last season as he recovered from Tommy John surgery. He was thought to be a potential No. 1 overall pick prior to his injury.
  • Davidi’s colleague, Ben Nicholson-Smith, hosted his weekly Blue Jays chat this afternoon and discussed a number of trade scenarios, R.A. Dickey‘s future with the team beyond 2015 and a the number at which Roberto Osuna‘s innings should be capped.

Article XX(B) Free Agent Updates: Tuesday

Per the latest iteration of Major League Baseball’s collective bargaining agreement, players with six years of service time who finished the 2014 season on a 40-man roster or on the 60-day DL but signed Minor League deals over the offseason are entitled to a $100K retention bonus if their new team wishes to assign them to the Minor Leagues. Otherwise, they must be added to the MLB roster or Major League disabled list. Players who do receive the retention bonus are also given June 1 opt-out dates in their Minor League pacts.

MLBTR’s Jeff Todd ran down a list of this year’s Article XX(B) free agents earlier in the month, and we’re now arriving at the juncture of Spring Training where decisions must be made on these players — the deadline will come at 11am CT tomorrow. Many such players have already been released or granted their release today (some will re-sign with the teams that released them, as Chris Perez did in Milwaukee), but here are updates on players who were paid this bonus or learned that they’ve made their respective teams…

  • Yahoo’s Jeff Passan tweets that utility man Kelly Johnson has made the Braves‘ 25-man roster. Johnson inked a Minor League pact that included a yet-unreported base salary. His versatility, the organization’s familiarity with him and the fact that the 32-year-old slashed a hefty .273/.396/.523 with a pair of homers in 54 plate appearances this spring likely all factored into the decision.
  • The Nationals will pay left-hander Rich Hill the $100K retention bonus, tweets James Wagner of the Washington Post. The 35-year-old yielded a pair of runs in 7 1/3 innings this spring and will give the Nats some left-handed relief depth. Of course, the Nats also just traded away some lefty relief by dealing out-of-options southpaw Jerry Blevins and his $2.4MM salary to the Mets.

Earlier Updates

  • Padres catcher Wil Nieves has received a $100K retention bonus, tweets Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Nieves is still in the running for the team’s backup catching slot, Lin adds. Tim Federowicz was slated to be the team’s backup, but knee surgery has sidelined him for the next several months. The team must make a final call by this Sunday.
  • The D-Backs and catcher Gerald Laird and agreed to a five-day extension that will allow him to remain in big league camp, reports Jack Magruder of FOX Sports Arizona (on Twitter). Zach Buchanan of the Arizona Republic adds some clarity, noting that Laird still received the $100K retention bonus but will have the opportunity to fight for a roster spot (Twitter link). The five days will give the Snakes a bit more time to determine whether or not they want to take the veteran Laird north with them to open the season.
  • The Blue Jays have paid the $100K retention bonus to both Johan Santana and Munenori Kawasaki, tweets Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. Both players were on Minor League deals, but Santana didn’t get into a game with the big league club as he continued to rehab from injury. Kawasaki hit .333/.481/.571 in 27 plate appearances but didn’t make the big league roster. He’ll head to Triple-A and wait for a call to the Majors in an organization with which he is quite familiar and where he is quite popular among the coaches and his teammates.
  • Right-handers Brad Penny and Jesse Crain both received retention bonuses from the White Sox, Passan also reports (on Twitter). The duo will remain in the Minors in the hopes of a spot opening with the big league club. Penny struggled to a 6.89 ERA in 15 2/3 innings this spring, though little can be gleaned from such a small sample, and he did issue only four walks along the way. Crain, like his former Twins teammate Santana in Toronto, didn’t pitch in a big league game as he continued to rehab from injuries that cost him the entire 2014 season in Houston.
  • Both Geovany Soto and Matt Albers, on the other hand, have made the White Sox‘ roster and will be added to the 40-man, Passan reports in the aforementioned tweet. Presumably, Soto will be in the mix for everyday at-bats behind the plate following a strong spring performance. Albers will slot into the bullpen and bring an experienced arm to serve as a right-handed setup option. Soto’s base salary is an unknown, wheres Albers stands to reportedly receive a $1.5MM base for making the club.


Blue Jays Re-Sign Munenori Kawasaki

The Blue Jays announced that they’ve re-signed popular infielder Munenori Kawasaki to a minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training.

Kawasaki, a fan favorite due to his affable nature and quirky sense of humor, has batted .244/.327/.302 in 563 plate appearances for the Blue Jays over the past two seasons. The versatile 33-year-old is known more for his glove than his bat and is capable of handling second base, shortstop and third base.


Blue Jays Notes: D’Backs, Neshek, Gregerson

Here’s the latest from Toronto…

  • The Blue Jays asked the Diamondbacks about both left-hander Wade Miley and outfielder Mark Trumbo earlier this winter, Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun reports.  Arizona, in turn, asked for some of the Jays’ young pitching in return.  Interestingly, the Jays didn’t plan on keeping Trumbo, but rather flipping him to the Mariners for Michael Saunders, a player Toronto landed anyway by dealing J.A. Happ to Seattle.
  • Also from Elliott, the Jays have looked into signing free agent relievers Pat Neshek and Luke GregersonSportsnet.ca’s Shi Davidi also notes that the Astros and Yankees are among the other clubs interested in Gregerson’s services.
  • The Blue Jays are one of three teams who have spoken to veteran reliever Kyle Farnsworth, Davidi reports.
  • Munenori Kawasaki has looked into options in Japan and may now be considering returning in North America on a minor league deal, according to Davidi.  The Blue Jays would seem to be natural candidates to bring Kawasaki back, though manager John Gibbons wasn’t sure what was going on between the team and the infielder.

Blue Jays Notes: Martin, Kawasaki, Phillies

The Blue Jays are in on several top free agents as the offseason kicks off.  They’ll meet with Pablo Sandoval‘s agent Gustavo Vasquez today, according to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca.  Reps for Victor Martinez spoke to the Jays recently, and there’s reportedly a meeting on the books with Russell Martin‘s agent as well.  Further details on Canada’s team…

  • Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos preached flexibility yesterday.  According to Davidi, Anthopoulos said, “We’re going to try to take the best player available, and we’re not locked into one thing, like we need a defender at first base, we need a pure DH. It depends on what becomes available to us.”  Edwin Encarnacion can be deployed at first base or DH, while third base could be opened up by using Brett Lawrie at second.
  • Martin, a Canada native, turned down the Blue Jays before the 2010 season because the Yankees offered more playing time behind the plate, according to Davidi.  Davidi feels that of all the Blue Jays rumors, Martin may be the one with the most substance.
  • The Jays are looking at Anthony Gose and Kevin Pillar in center field next year, barring a trade.
  • Infielder Munenori Kawasaki is leaning toward a return to Japan, but Davidi says he might be swayed by a Major League contract.
  • The Jays called the Phillies about Cole Hamels, Chase Utley, and Antonio Bastardo, according to Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun.

Blue Jays Outright George Kottaras

The Blue Jays announced that they have outrighted catcher George Kottaras off the 40-man roster and officially announced the outrights of Munenori Kawasaki and Dan Johnson, both of which were made known earlier in the week.

Kottaras, 31, batted a strong .233/.351/.533 with three homers in 38 plate appearances between the Indians, Cardinals and Blue Jays this season. Two of those homers came as a member of the Indians in his first game of the season.

The journeyman catcher has always shown plus plate discipline and plus power but low batting averages, as evidenced by his .215/.326/.411 career batting line. Kottaras has struck out in 23.7 percent of his career plate appearances, but that number has jumped to 35.3 percent over the past two seasons (164 PA). Defensively speaking, he’s thrown out just 18 percent of opposing base-stealers in his career, and pitch-framing metrics haven’t been kind to him.

Kottaras and Johnson have both elected free agency, per the Blue Jays, while Kawasaki has yet to do so. Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star tweets that Kawasaki will likely do the same thing that he did last offseason: seek a Major League deal elsewhere but return to the Blue Jays as a minor league free agent if he is unable to find one.


Blue Jays Outright Munenori Kawasaki, Dan Johnson

The Blue Jays have outrighted infielder Munenori Kawasaki and first baseman Dan Johnson, according to the team’s official transactions page.

Kawasaki, 33, batted .258/.327/.296 in 274 plate appearances in his second season with the Blue Jays. The Japanese infielder’s outgoing nature and quirky sense of humor have made him popular with both fans and teammates, but he hasn’t hit much in either of his two seasons in the Majors. He does grade out as a solid defender at shortstop, and both Ultimate Zone Rating and Defensive Runs Saved gave positive reviews to a small sample of work at third base this season.

The 35-year-old Johnson saw some action with Toronto this season as a replacement for the injured Adam Lind. The AL East veteran (he’s also been with the Rays, Orioles and Yankees) batted .211/.333/.342 with a homer in 48 trips to the plate. Johnson posted yet another gaudy OBP total at Triple-A, slashing .232/.381/.434 with 18 homers in 459 PA. In parts of 11 seasons at the Triple-A level, the former seventh-round pick is a .281/.401/.509 hitter, so he should be able to find a home rather easily this winter if he wishes.


Blue Jays Designate Marcus Walden, Outright Jeremy Jeffress

The Blue Jays have issued a press release to announce a series of roster moves: Right-hander Marcus Walden has been designated for assignment in order to clear a 40-man roster spot for Munenori Kawasaki, who has been promoted to the Majors to take the 25-man roster spot of Maicer Izturis. Izturis, who is most likely out four to six months with a torn LCL, has been placed on the 15-day DL. Additionally, the club announced that right-hander Jeremy Jeffress, who was designated for assignment last week, has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Buffalo.

Walden, who turned 25 near the end of the 2013 season, began the year at Buffalo but pitched just four innings prior to today's news. The former ninth-round pick allowed six runs in those four frames but posted a strong 3.71 ERA in 162 1/3 innings at Double-A New Hampshire in 2013. Walden misses few bats but has solid command, as evidenced by career ratios of 5.4 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in his minor league career.

The 32-year-old Kawasaki appeared in 96 games for the Blue Jays last season, quickly winning over fans and teammates with his quirky personality and his sense of humor. On the field, he batted .229/.326/.308 with a homer and seven stolen bases while appearing at both middle infield positions.

Jeffress has seen MLB time in five seasons, but has never logged more than 15 1/3 innings in any one season. The former No. 16 overall pick (Brewers) has yet to harness his big arm, as his career 6.7 BB/9 tally in the bigs would indicate. He did put up outstanding results last year, as he yielded one earned run with a 12-to-5 K:BB ratio in 10 1/3 Major League innings in addition to registering a 1.39 mark in his 32 1/3 minor league innings (8.4 K/9 against 3.6 BB/9).


Blue Jays Re-Sign Munenori Kawasaki

The Blue Jays announced that they've re-signed infielder Munenori Kawasaki to a minor league contract with an invitation to Major League Spring Training. Kawasaki is represented by Relativity Baseball (formerly known as SFX).

The 32-year-old Kawasaki batted .229/.326/.308 with a homer and seven stolen bases in 96 games (289 plate appearances) for the Blue Jays in 2013. He appeared at both second base and shortstop, providing Toronto manager John Gibbons with solid defense at each position. Kawaski's big personality made him a favorite both in the Blue Jays' clubhouse and with Toronto's fans.

A career .294/.345/.378 hitter in Nippon Professional Baseball, Kawasaki has batted at a .218/.306/.276 clip in 404 Major League plate appearances between the Mariners and Blue Jays since coming to the United States.