How far out of favor has Kenshin Kawakami fallen in Atlanta? Well, yesterday the Braves demoted him to Double-A, where he’ll earn $6.7 million while pitching against hitters a dozen years his junior.
David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution writes that they sent Kawakami all the way down to Double-A because “they want to keep the Triple-A rotation open to pitchers who could have an impact in Atlanta this season.”
I understand souring on a player and Kawakami certainly hasn’t been very impressive since coming over from Japan, but the lengths the Braves are going to banish a pitcher with a 4.32 career ERA seems odd. They dumped him from the rotation in the middle of last season and have spent the past six months unsuccessfully trying to unload his contract, but that doesn’t make Kawakami a useless player.
He’d be a perfectly decent fourth or fifth starter on any number of teams and could come in handy for the Braves at some point this season if they weren’t so hellbent on completely erasing him from their plans. His win-loss record is ugly, but Kawakami’s secondary numbers and 4.32 ERA show a pitcher good enough to contribute to a big-league staff. And now he’s a 35-year-old riding buses in Double-A.
Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Cubs won’t deal Kyle Schwarber this winter, despite multiple inquires from teams around the league. Schwarber is approaching his first year of arbitration and will remain under team control for another three seasons before reaching free agency in 2022.
The decision comes on the heels of one of the strongest seasons of the 25-year-old outfielder’s short career. Over 137 games and 510 PA for the Cubs, he proved a passable defender in left field and batted .238/.356/.467 with 26 home runs, an .823 OPS, and 3.2 fWAR in 2018. He also led the National League in intentional walks, with 20, and bumped up his total walks from 59 in 2017 to 78.
Despite his marked improvements from previous years, Schwarber’s performance still left something to be desired — specifically against left-handed pitchers, who held the slugger to a paltry .224/.352/.303 with four extra-base hits across 91 PA. Still, it’s evident the Cubs feel Schwarber is capable of strengthening his splits in the years to come, and they might stand to get more value from him on the field than they would in a trade this offseason.
Of course, that’s not to say the Cubs intend to pass the Winter Meetings in total silence, especially as they’ll be seeking bullpen and catching depth in advance of their 2019 run at the division title. As club president Theo Epstein remarked last week, “We’re certainly open and active in trade talks with a lot of deals that usually don’t come to fruition. So, we may make some trades. We could make big ones that transform the roster. We may make smaller complementary ones. But there’s certain things we’d like to accomplish.”