Munenori Kawasaki Rumors

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.


Blue Jays Notes: Catching, Arencibia, Kawasaki, Davis

Here's the latest on the Blue Jays, who look set for another busy offseason…

  • The Jays have made inquiries about such catchers as Carlos Ruiz, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and A.J. Pierzynski, Sportsnet.ca's Shi Davidi reports.  Davidi also suspects Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos has checked in on Brian McCann, to boot. 
  • The Jays were known to be looking to improve behind the plate this winter and current catcher J.P. Arencibia has drawn trade interest from other teams.  Davidi says there is some feeling that Arencibia has too much "accumulated baggage" in Toronto and might not reach his potential in a Blue Jay uniform.  Arencibia is projected to earn $2.8MM as a first-time arbitration eligible player this winter and the Jays would certainly prefer getting something back for him in a trade than simply non-tendering him.
  • Ervin Santana, Tim Hudson and Hiroki Kuroda have all received calls from the Blue Jays, Davidi reports, noting that Hudson and Kuroda probably don't have any mutual interest.  Hudson is being courted by over 10 teams while Kuroda seems to be set on either re-signing with the Yankees, returning to pitch in Japan or retiring.
  • Also from Davidi, Munenori Kawasaki could sign a new minor league deal with the Jays that would pay him more than the $600K base salary he earned last season.
  • In another piece from Davidi, Melky Cabrera is looking much healthier and fit after a tumor was surgically removed from his spine, Anthopoulos said.  Cabrera looks to be the Jays' everyday choice in left field, though obviously that could change if he suffers a setback in his rehabilitation.
  • Rajai Davis is likely to leave the Jays for a team that can offer him more playing time, Davidi reports.  The club's hope is that Anthony Gose or Moises Sierra can be a low-cost replacement for Davis as a backup outfielder.
  • Sierra is out of options and "is a prime candidate to be shopped," MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm writes.  Brad Lincoln could also be part of a trade package, as Chisholm breaks down possible scenarios for the Jays' nine out-of-options players. 

Blue Jays Exercise Janssen, Lind, DeRosa Options

6:50pm: The Jays have exercised their options on Lind and DeRosa, while declining their option on Kawasaki, Sportsnet.ca's Shi Davidi writes. Lind hit .288/.357/.497 while splitting his time between first base and DH in 2013. DeRosa hit .235/.326/.407 while playing first, second, third and DH. Kawasaki provided a feel-good moment or two for the Jays in a season in which they had very few, but he split his time between Toronto and Triple-A Buffalo and only hit .229/.326/.308 in the Majors. Davidi notes that the Jays could re-sign him to a minor-league deal.

5:04pm: The Blue Jays have exercised their $4MM option on closer Casey Janssen, Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish tweets. Janssen pitched 52 2/3 innings in 2013, posting a 2.56 ERA with 8.5 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9, so the decision was likely a relatively straightforward one. The option came as part of a two-year, $5.9MM deal signed prior to the 2012 season. Janssen made $3.9MM in 2013. He is eligible for free agency after the 2014 season.

The Jays have yet to announce decisions on options for first baseman / designated hitter Adam Lind ($7MM with a $2MM buyout), infielder Munenori Kawasaki ($1MM) and utilityman Mark DeRosa ($750K with a $25K buyout).


Quick Hits: Lee, Papelbon, Kawasaki, White Sox, Appel

Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports runs down the names to watch as the trade deadline approaches in the latest edition of his 10 Degrees column, and the list is topped by Cliff Lee and Chase Utley. Giancarlo Stanton, Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford, Justin Morneau, Jesse Crain, Oliver Perez and Matt Garza also appear on the list, along with Passan's rationale for shopping each. Here's more from around the league…

  • Jon Heyman of CBS Sports writes that the price to acquire Lee from the Phillies would be "astronomical," and the same goes for Jonathan Papelbon. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. told Heyman, "I never say never," but those two would be very difficult to replace. Utley and Michael Young are much more likely trade candidates, opines Heyman, given their impending free agency.
  • The Blue Jays' decision on what to do with Munenori Kawasaki following Jose Reyes' return from the disabled list grows more difficult each day, writes Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet. Kawasaki's popularity among fans and teammates has soared. Mark Buehrle went as far as calling the Japanese infielder one of his favorite teammates of all-time. Kawasaki also has a .341 OBP and is hitting .270/.372/.486 over his past 15 games.
  • Both Adam Dunn and Jake Peavy recognize that roster changes are on the horizon for the White Sox if they can't turn things around at the last minute, writes Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago. Dunn added that outside of Chris Sale — whom he said the White Sox would need to receive an entire MLB team to part with — everyone on the team is probably "fair game."
  • Mark Appel could make his pro debut for Class A Tri-City in the first week of July, according to Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle. The current plan for Appel is for him to begin a throwing program in Kissimmee, Fla., as he currently hasn't thrown in about three weeks.

Quick Hits: Profar, Rodriguez, Kawasaki, Cubs

The Rangers should seriously consider trading Jurickson Profar, Randy Galloway of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram writes. Galloway argues that, despite Davis' strong 2012 and brilliant start in 2013, he won't criticize Jon Daniels' 2011 trade of Chris Davis (and Tommy Hunter) for Koji Uehara, because the trade was intended to position Texas for a World Series run, and the Rangers did in fact make it to the World Series. If the Rangers can arrange a Profar trade that sets them up for another run at a title, Galloway argues that they should make the deal and live with the results. Rangers assistant GM Thad Levine, however, tells ESPN's Jim Bowden that, while the Rangers will likely be active at this year's trade deadline, they plan to keep Profar, Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler, rather than dealing one of them (both links via Twitter).

As a side note, Galloway calls the Davis/Uehara deal "the worst MLB trade of this decade," even though he refrains from criticizing Daniels for it. Uehara was excellent for the Rangers, particularly in 2012, but he's since moved on, and Davis is currently hitting .357/.440/.754 with 20 home runs for the Orioles. Here are more notes from around baseball.

  • Yankees GM Brian Cashman discusses Alex Rodriguez's ten-year, $275MM contract in an interview with ESPN's Buster Olney. Rodriguez and the Yankees are currently in the sixth year of the deal, and Rodriguez will make $86MM from 2014 through 2017. Rodriguez has not yet played in 2013. "Alex would even tell you he couldn't live up to [the contract]," Cashman says. "Hopefully he can return to being, at the very least, an above-average player at that position."
  • When Jose Reyes returns, the Blue Jays will have to decide what to do with Munenori Kawasaki, Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star writes. Due to the Jays' contractual obligations to Maicer Izturis and the presence of Emilio Bonifacio and Mark DeRosa, there would appear to be no space for Kawasaki once Reyes returns. Griffin suggests that the trade market for Izturis could be better than that of Kawasaki, though the Jays might have to pay some of the approximately $9MM remaining on Izturis' contract.
  • Cubs manager Dale Sveum is hoping for an infusion of arms in this week's draft, Fred Mitchell of the Chicago Tribune reports. "Obviously pitching is what you want to get in the organization as much as you possibly can," says Sveum. When the Cubs make the No. 2 overall selection, either Oklahoma's Jonathan Gray or Stanford's Mark Appel, or perhaps both, will still be on the board.
  • Twins GM Terry Ryan discusses the role of general managers in the draft in an interview with 1500ESPN's Phil Mackey. GMs generally get credit or blame for their draft picks, but other front office personnel may be more responsible for those picks. "My role would be to take the blame when we don't do well, but I also get the praise when we do well. That's not fair," says Ryan. For example, Ryan discusses his role in the selection of Ben Revere, the No. 28 overall pick in the 2007 Draft. "That's a pick that I got praise for I think at the time. I didn't have anything to do with Ben Revere. (Our scouts) did. They all had seen him a lot. I get the praise. 'Good pick, there you go Terry.' Hell, I never even saw (Revere)."
  • Quintin Berry, who was recently designated for assignment by the Tigers, could make it through waivers and wind up back with Triple-A Toledo, MLB.com's Jason Beck tweets. Given that Berry is 28 and has hit just .168/.278/.234 so far for Toledo this season, that seems to be a fairly likely scenario.
  • When the Blue Jays begin a series in San Francisco Tuesday night, Melky Cabrera will face Giants fans for the first time since being suspended last August for failing a PED test, MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm reports. Cabrera vanished after receiving word of the suspension, not talking to the San Francisco media. He then signed a two-year, $16MM contract with the Jays in the offseason. Cabrera says he isn't concerned with how the fans will react to his return. "I don't worry about that, it's up to the fans. It's nothing I have control of," Cabrera explains. "I'm just going to play the game. If they decide to boo, that's fine. If they decide to cheer, that's fine with me, too. But, I'm not going to worry about that."

Quick Hits: Wacha, Kawasaki, Mariners, Gomez

The Cardinals will need another starter on Thursday to replace John Gast, and that could be Michael Wacha, Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch suggests. Wacha, who would be making his big-league debut, was scratched from his start Sunday, which the Cardinals now say is due to his innings count so far this year. Wacha ranked No. 76 in both MLB.com's and Baseball America's preseason top prospects lists, and he has pitched well so far in 2013 at Triple-A Memphis (albeit with a low strikeout rate), posting a 2.05 ERA with 5.8 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9. Cards GM John Mozeliak says that the team will likely decide on Tuesday who will make Thursday's start. Here are more notes from around the majors.

  • It's unclear what will happen to infielder Munenori Kawasaki of the Blue Jays once Jose Reyes returns, but Jays manager John Gibbons would like Kawasaki to stick around, Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com reports. "When the time comes, we'd definitely like to keep him, that's for sure. But we don't know when Reyes is coming back, either." Kawasaki has become a fan favorite, and he has played decently, hitting .247/.345/.320. But Chisholm notes that the Jays already have Maicer Izturis, Emilio Bonifacio and Mark DeRosa.
  • It's a bad day for the Mariners' rebuilding efforts, Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times writes. The Mariners promoted prospect Nick Franklin but demoted former No. 2 overall draft pick Dustin Ackley in the process. That move followed the demotion of Jesus Montero. Justin Smoak and Michael Saunders haven't hit particularly well, and Brandon Maurer has struggled. "Right now, the Mariners are being carried by a bunch of veterans on one-year deals who were supposed to be here to round out that young core and help stabilize the environment through which young guys were going to take their games to the next level," says Baker, noting that Kyle Seager is the only starting player who has accomplished that.
  • Ron Gardenhire feels Carlos Gomez of the Brewers "learned a lot" from his time with the Twins, MLB.com's Adam McCalvy reports. Gomez played with the Twins for two years before heading to Milwaukee in exchange for J.J. Hardy after the 2009 season. The Twins tried to help Gomez calm down as a player, McCalvy writes. "I thought he learned a lot with us," Gardenhire says. "Gomez was a lot of fun. I think everybody knew it from the time he was with the Mets, how much talent he had, if he could ever harness it and calm himself down enough."
  • It's questionable whether the Angels and Dodgers have spent their money well, but it's important that they're spending, says Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. "You can't win on scouting and player development alone. That is a foundation, with free agency a necessary supplement. Spending does not guarantee winning, but spending absolutely correlates with winning," says Shaikin. Still, Shaikin notes that the Angels' core of homegrown players includes Mike Trout, Jered Weaver, and Howie Kendrick; the Dodgers' includes Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw. Shaikin quotes Dodgers president Stan Kasten, who reiterates that his team's long-term plan is to build through its farm system, just as the Braves did when Kasten worked there.
  • The Cubs aren't quite ready to declare themselves sellers, but it sounds like they're getting there, ESPN Chicago's Jesse Rogers reports. GM Jed Hoyer says that teams begin to assess their trading options "50-60 games within the deadline." Hoyer adds, "You always hold out hope you can string things together and make a run. It’s really hard in this division, I’ll say that. You have three teams playing really well." In a recent poll, MLBTR readers thought the Cubs' Matt Garza and Alfonso Soriano were among the players most likely to be traded.