The Braves took Kenshin Kawakami out of their rotation last year, and last week they demoted him to Double-A. The hope was that they could find someone — possibly an NPB team — to take him and pick up some of his $6.67 million salary for 2011. They may have a sucker — er, I mean a taker — for Kawakami: The SoftBank Hawks of the Pacific League.
I’m not terribly knowledgeable about Japanese baseball, but I do remember that the Hawks were the team — managed by the great Sadaharu Oh — who went out of their way to keep American Tuffy Rhodes and Venezuelan Alex Cabrera from breaking Oh’s single-season home run record by refusing to throw them strikes down the stretch.
While Oh is no longer the Hawks’ manager, if the team ever finds a need to not throw strikes again for some reason, Kawakami should come in handy.
The Twins have reportedly signed free agent shortstop Erick Aybar to a minor-league deal, LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune reported Friday. FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman adds that the deal comes with a potential $1.25 million if Aybar reaches the majors, with additional incentives based on plate appearances. He’ll be able to opt out on March 27. The team has yet to confirm the signing.
Aybar, 34, is now four years removed from his career year in 2014. He’s been in a state of steady decline since then, slashing just .234/.300/.348 with seven home runs and 11 stolen bases over 370 plate appearances for the Padres in 2017. His poor performance wasn’t helped by a fractured left foot, either, which cost him almost six weeks on the disabled list.
Still, the Twins see something promising in the veteran infielder, and reportedly intend to use him as another utility option this spring. Per Neal, Aybar will join fellow backup infielders Eduardo Escobar and Ehire Adrianza and may even (temporarily) take over for Miguel Sano at third base if Sano isn’t able to shape up for the role by Opening Day.