Mariners near deal with Japanese infielder Munenori Kawasaki

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Last month Japanese shortstop Munenori Kawasaki became a free agent and held a press conference announcing that the only MLB team he was interested in signing with was the Mariners.

It sounds like Kawasaki will get his wish, although publicly ruling out the other 29 teams might have wrecked his leverage, as Larry Stone of the Seattle Times reports that he’s close to signing a minor-league contract with the Mariners.

Kawasaki projects as a utility man and even that might prove to be a stretch after the 30-year-old hit just .267 with one homer and a .647 OPS in 603 at-bats for the Softbank Hawks in 2011. He’s posted much higher batting averages in previous seasons, but has never hit more than four homers and doesn’t draw enough walks to be a strong on-base threat.