Archive for the ‘KawasakiTheBest’ Category

kawasakiblows

On Wednesday, Munenori Kawasaki officially cleared waivers, was outrighted off of the Blue Jays’ 40-man roster, and became a minor league free agent.

I get that.

The same scenario played out for Dan Johnson, as well.

I get that, too.

And according to a tweet from Mike Wilner, George Kottaras is likely to join them as free agents as soon as today.

This I do not get at all.

The answer to the questions on Kawasaki and Johnson are easy.

During his lengthy end-of-season press conference, which I recapped in detail earlier this week, Alex Anthopoulos clarified the utility infielder’s contract status, explaining that “Kawasaki, the way his contract is, even though he’s got — I haven’t looked at this, but — two years of service probably, or three years of service, he’s eligible for free agency. It’s just a clause in his contract. Most every Japanese player that comes over now, they’re not part of the reserve, you don’t get them for six or seven years and go through arbitration (unless they’re an amateur, and so on). So Kawa’s going to be a free agent at the end of the year — someone that I think we’re always going to look to bring back, one way or the other.”

Cue warm fuzzies and trips to Buffalo.

Johnson, on the other hand, despite being a prolific Triple-A hitter, is 35 years old and clearly not in the club’s plans, as evidenced by the way he was used in September. He is out of options and not a viable option as a replacement for Adam Lind on a team serious about winning. So that’s good! With the difference between his cost and Lind’s cost there could have been some kind of ridiculous plan to use him as a replacement, but obviously — thankfully — the Jays aren’t that hurtin’ for money and ideas.

Kottaras, though?

I know he’s not Dickey’s “personal catcher” or whatever, but there is actually quite a bit to like about the idea of Kottaras getting the chance to unseat Josh Thole as the club’s backup behind the plate.

First and foremost, he was Tim Wakefield’s personal catcher in 2009, spending 18 games behind the plate for the knuckleballer. If he could do the same ably for Dickey the Jays would clearly have themselves a more capable backup because of the difference on offence. To wit: Thole’s career wRC+ is 78 in 1311 plate appearances, whereas Kottaras has posted a 100 mark through 858 PA. Thole has struggled since moving to a part-time role, and especially over the last three seasons, where he’s posted just a 58 wRC+ in 658 PA — a putrid slash line of .225/.292/.277 over that span. Meanwhile, Kottaras’s last four MLB seasons have produced 109, 113, 103, and 150 marks by wRC+, albeit all in small samples.

Kottaras holds a .246/.338/.431 slash line as a Triple-A player, as well. And his walk rates have only improved as he’s matured: 13.2% with the Brewers in 2010, 13.6% in Triple-A and 8.1% in the big leagues in 2011, 17.7% in part time big league duty in 2012, 19.0% as a backup for the Royals last year, and in 2014, 14.3% for Buffalo, 8.5% in a small sample for Columbus, and 15.8% in the big leagues with three different teams.

It gets better: Kottaras has been stronger against right-handed pitching than against left (105 wRC+ compared to 82 against lefties), which is the exact opposite of Dioner Navarro, who produced just a 96 wRC+ against right-handers in 2014, compared to 103 against lefties, and whose career platoon splits have been even more pronounced (107 vs. LHP, 78 vs. RHP). Thole’s career mark against right-handers is just 85, and that’s lifted by his non-abysmal seasons in 2011 and before.

The Jays, in other words, could legitimately use Kottaras to spell Navarro against right-handed pitchers, even when Dickey isn’t pitching, and get a benefit. He isn’t great defensively, and he isn’t great with respect to pitch framing, but if he could catch the knuckleball the way he’s shown before that he’s capable, it’s a clear win.

So what gives?

Kottaras made $950,000 in 2014 and is arbitration eligible for one more season. Thole, meanwhile, has a club option for 2015, but he’s also arbitration eligible. The Jays could decline the option while keeping control of him, and then — as far as I understand, at least — release him if he loses the position battle next spring while being on the hook for just one sixth of the salary if they’re unable to trade him (a la Reed Johnson). The same would be true of Kottaras were he to lose the battle.

While one sixth of whatever Thole makes (likely a raise on his $1.5-million 2014 salary — i.e. something over $250K) isn’t nothing, it seems like a pretty small cost compared to a pretty big opportunity to make exactly the kind incremental improvement they need on this front.

Am I missing something? Perhaps. CBA stuff is always a bit tricky — ask the Edmonton Oilers! HEYO! — but I’m pretty sure that’s how it works. And if so, I just can’t understand why the Jays would be about to make Kottaras a free agent.

Maybe they tried him out with Dickey outside of public view and didn’t like the results, though that nobody heard any sort of whisper of such a thing is somewhat hard to believe. (Update: Or maybe I just don’t remember and they totally did have him try).

Maybe they think there’s enough opportunity for him here that they can get him to sign a deal that’s more favourable to the club than even what he’d be set to earn next year through the arbitration process.

Maybe they’ll defer to their nominal ace’s preference, though Thole’s half-season in Buffalo in 2013 while Henry Blanco caught Dickey suggests otherwise. Or maybe they don’t want to disrupt Dickey’s spring by having him throw to different catchers for most of it.

Maybe they don’t want to mess with what was a pretty successful combination in 2014 (after a shaky opening four starts, Dickey settled down and pitched to a 3.41 ERA over 30 starts from April 22nd onward), but they can’t really think that comes down so much to his catcher, can they?

Or maybe — hopefully — Wilner is wrong on this one and the Jays will have enough sense to keep Kottaras around for a good, long look in February and March.

 

(Note: Big crotch grab in the direction of @CWSherwin for the tweet from Brendan Kennedy showing Dickey throwing to Kottaras)

kawasakispring

So here’s something I’m totally going to turn into a post even though I’m currently working on a Monday evening Daily Duce and, by all rights this should just be a small item in it. Munenori Kawasaki is coming back! Welcome clickbait.

Wilner, at the time of this writing, is so far the only one to have tweeted it out:

Now, before you go getting too much of a warm fuzzy over a utility player — or the possible end of the Juan Francisco thing, given that Kawasaki and Steve Tolleson can platoon rather nicely-ish at second — let’s not lose sight of what this also means: losing for two weeks either a key weapon against right-handed pitching, or a hugely important reliever. Or, at least, that’s what we’re “expecting.”

Lind fouled a ball off his foot on Saturday, and while x-rays were negative, John Lott’s piece for the National Post that evening tells us that “he was limping noticeably in the clubhouse, but said, ‘Hopefully, I just wake up tomorrow and I’m fine – or good enough.’ ”

Brett Cecil was hurt the night before, and David Wilson of BlueJays.com spoke to pitching coach Pete Walker, who explained on Sunday that “we’ve got to treat the heck out of it today, get back in there, treat it and hopefully he’s available on Tuesday.

Neither player got into Sunday’s victory, so it’s not like the Jays can’t survive without them. It’s just… not the best news, even if it means the team gets its our spirit animal back. And Muni could be a bit useful too, at this point, so… I can live with that.

Temporarily, at least.

Hey, it was going to happen for someone eventually, right?

Update

And, of course, the zaniness has already begun:

Twitter’s translation? Little cum will go very much major. Alone lonely Airport ( ; ; )

OK then…

muniBP

Munenori Kawasaki will return to the Jays organization, the team announced in a media release today. He’s signed a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training, and damn well may be the best second baseman in the organization (save for their third baseman, of course).

It’s hard not to like Kawasaki as a depth piece. He came in last year and did exactly what you want from a guy you’ve stashed in the minors in case your shortstop gets hurt. He took a lot of good at-bats, which was something it felt like not a lot of his teammates did last season, and he had the added dimension of being a wacky-fun mascot for the club. He was a refreshing bundle of energy in midst of a grim and depressing season.

So… sure, seems a reasonable move given their lack of middle infield depth. An actual MLB-calibre starter would be nice, but this doesn’t prevent that in the slightest.

I’d continue, but not only do I have to run, I’d risk getting awful cynical about all the warm fuzzy feelings this gives people. So… yeah, that’s all I’ve got.

kawasaki-sierra

Hmmm… Nope, still seems empty.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this is cleared up by the time I’m finished writing, so I’ll try to make it brief: Munenori Kawasaki is headed back to Japan. Or maybe he isn’t.

Y’know, just like the title says.

In this corner, conflict source number one, Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star:

And in the other corner, yadda yadda yadda, Mike Wilner:

Now, the implications of any of this, of course, have almost everything to do with the Buffalo Bisons and not the Toronto Blue Jays, so I hesitate to even bother. But on the other hand, Kawasaki is pretty much as awesome as it gets, as far as depth pieces are concerned.

I don’t think I need to list his abundant virtues. It’s just, none of them would appear to involve being able to help a Major League club get better, unless you really believe in the power of magical spirit animals (in which case the Jays, by employing John Gibbons, are probably fucked anyway, eh genius?).

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muniBP

Well that didn’t take long. The World Series ended last night, I’m told, and today the Jays were already getting down to business.

To wit:

Yes, the Munenori Kawasaki Era may already be over, though that’s not necessarily going to be the case, as Davidi explains:

Lind will earn $7 million, Janssen $4 million and DeRosa $750,000. Kawasaki would have earned $1 million, but may still return on a minor-league deal.

So… yeah, I don’t know. All of those moves seem pretty obvious to me. Lind and DeRosa will make for a nice DH platoon combo, with DeRosa being able to spell the odd infielder from time to time, continuing his bang up job babysitting Brett Lawrie, and otherwise just kinda being awesome. Janssen, obviously, continues to be surprisingly terrific– so much so that his terrificness should have probably stopped being a surprise by now– while Kawasaki looks a whole lot better off the 40-man roster than on it.

OK, maybe not a whole lot. But better, I think.

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boniEM-finished

Because of course this was going to happen in the 20 minute period while I was walking to work: according to a release from the Jays, Emilio Bonifacio has been dealt to the Kansas City Royals for a player to be named later or cash, while Colby Rasmus has placed on the 15-day DL. This frees up one 40-man roster spot and two spots on the active roster, which have been filled by Kevin Pillar– as discussed earlier– and Munenori Kawasaki.

Never too late to fix your mistakes, I guess. Except, y’know, when it totally is.

Don’t get me wrong, that’s not to say that Emilio Bonifacio is what sunk this team, or anything like that. He’s just one of many parts of the compendium of cock-ups and underperformances that did the Jays in. Not that it’s necessarily his fault that he was miscast as a full-time player by a team drooling over the .296/.360/.393 line he put up in 2011, when he was last healthy.

Frankly, as much as sour fuckheads wanted to argue all season about how the Jays should have known he’d be this bad, it wasn’t the craziest proposition. Though he struggled at the big league level in his first full season at age 24, in his final three seasons with the Marlins, from ages 25 through 27, he posted a .280/.345/.362 line over eleven-hundred plate appearances, so anyone suggesting that anything close to this year’s disgusting .218/.258/.321 should have been expected is being pretty thoroughly disingenuous.

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kawasakishirt1

Huzzah?

Those of you who were sad to see Munenori Kawasaki go when the Jays dropped him to make for Jose Reyes to rejoin the club for Wednesday’s finale in Tampa have got your wish– albeit at the expense of Melky Cabrera’s bat and creaky legs.

The plucky Japaneeeeeeeeeeese crowd-pleaser has been recalled by the Jays, while the ailing left fielder has (presumably) been given the order to rest for at least a couple of weeks, so that we all can get a break from the searing hamstring pain we feel when watching him attempt to run the bases or play the outfield.

Don’t believe me? BOOM:

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