August 15, 2010

Should Kawakami Be A Pirate?

Kenshin Kawakami won 112 games with a 3.22 ERA in Japan's Central League. He was one of the highest profile free agents of 2008-09, finally signing a three-year, $25 million deal with the Braves.

Now less than two seasons later, Kawakami has fallen out of favor to the point where he's in the minors. Yet while the Braves apparently see him as dead weight, he's actually pitched pretty well in both of his MLB seasons.

In two years as a major league starter, Kenshin Kawakami has a 4.17 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP. Per nine innings he's allowed 9.2 hits, 3.1 walks and 0.9 home runs while striking out 6.1. He's done this in the NL East which is a much more difficult division for pitchers than the NL Central.

Kawakami's fastball tops out in the low 90s but he has five pitches including an excellent cut fastball, a slow curve, a sinker and a split-fingered fastball. If he was left-handed he would be celebrated as "crafty" but since he's right-handed he's sent to the minors for not having "stuff".

Overall, Kawakami profiles as a league average or slightly better starter. By no means is he a legit ace, but he's better than every one of the 11 pitchers who the Pirates have trotted out to the mound to start games this year.

If the Pirates traded a nothing prospect for Kawakami, essentially they would get him on a one-year deal for $6.7 million. He's better than anyone they could get at that price - consider the three year, $24 million deal awarded to Joe Blanton (!).

Clearly, the Braves don't want to be in a position much longer of paying Kawakami $7 million a year to pitch for AAA Gwinnett County. They might be willing to send money in a deal. Oh, hope of hopes, they might even take Ryan Doumit for Kawakami if they see it as a swap of a couple of bad contracts. It's worth a shot...


  1. No. Every Japanese pitcher the Pirates ever sign is a complete disaster.

    They might as well just sign random hot chicks and let them go out and suck. At least they'd be hot.

  2. Disagree, Perry. The Pirates need 5 guys who can go 6-7 innings a night and they have 2. KK could do that.