The Problem With Trading Kawakami

If there was a sensible suitor, one likely would have emerged by now. But despite their best efforts, the Braves haven’t persuaded any teams to take on Kenshin Kawakami. This isn’t exactly surprising. The Braves optioned Kawakami to AAA last August and then removed him from the 40-man roster, outrighting him to AA, in November. It’s clear that they don’t view him as a contributor, which instantly depresses his trade value.

Still, Kawakmi can probably produce more value than the projected starters for a handful of teams. If the Braves eat enough of his salary, there should be a match. The problem is that the teams that would realize an upgrade with Kawakami are the teams that would benefit least from his services.

For two examples we can look to the Diamondbacks and the Astros. Would Kawakami represent an upgrade over Aaron Heilman or Armando Galarraga at the end of the rotation? Probably. Is he a better bet to perform as a starter than Nelson Figueroa? Despite some rough times in 2010, Kawakami would likely benefit a team, as a starter, more than those three. Unfortunately for him, those teams have little reason to pursue such a trade.

What would Arizona, Houston, or even Pittsburgh gain by adding Kawakami? In the best case scenario he’s a 1.5-win upgrade over whatever fifth starters they currently employ. While that might make a difference for a contender, it means little to a rebuilding team. A trade makes even less sense when you factor in the cost of acquiring him. Atlanta will surely eat some of the $6.667 million remaining on Kawakami’s contract, but even then will prove difficult to strike a balance between players and dollars. But that’s probably a moot point anyway, since rebuilding teams have little reason to spend money or players on such an irrelevant upgrade.

With one year remaining on his deal, Kawakami would ideally attract a contender that seeks a slight upgrade in the rotation. At this point most contenders have their rotation situations figured out and employ a fifth starter at least as good as Kawakami. Many have depth options who can also produce similar numbers. Maybe the Yankees, with Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon battling for spots, could use his services. But even they have enough depth that they can plug in youngsters rather than send a player to Atlanta in exchange for Kawakami.

The upside for the Braves is that pitching situations change constantly during the season. A team that appears set right now might find itself seeking starters in a month or two. At that point they might find teams interested in acquiring Kawakami. But at this point there appears no hope. Not only does Kawakami have enough going against him all by himself, but there are also better options reportedly available on the market. As Dave will cover in about an hour, plenty of teams should find Kevin Slowey more enticing than Kawakami, since he’s younger, cheaper, and under team control for longer.

At some point during the season we’ll likely see Kenshin Kawakami wearing a major league uniform. It almost certainly won’t be for the Braves, but at some point they’ll find a taker. They won’t get much in return, and they’ll have to eat a good portion of his remaining salary, but if he’s not good enough for them he’ll likely be good enough for a contender that faces a few pitching injuries (which is to say, every contender at some point). He might not overwhelm, but he can still provide decent major league innings. Eventually the Braves will realize some value for this. That time, however, is not now.

We hoped you liked reading The Problem With Trading Kawakami by Joe Pawlikowski!

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Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.

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Azim Damani
Guest
Azim Damani

Have you heard anything about the Japanese teams that were reportedly interested in his services? Not sure how a transaction would work between the teams, but it’s better get something of value for him than to have him rot in the minor leagues. The Braves pitching depth is good enough that there’s almost no chance that he’ll see time in the major league rotation; Beachy and Minor are duking it our for the 5th spot and Kris Medlen will possibly be back sometime in the middle of the year as well.

Bo
Guest
Bo

KK to Japan won’t happen. They’ve had Japanese teams willing to take him and pay more than half his remaining salary, but any deal with a Japanese team requires the player’s permission. He has said he wants to stay and prove his worth in MLB, and won’t accept a deal back to Japan.

dutch
Guest
dutch

Somewhat offtopic, but is there even going to be a NPB season this year?

Anon21
Guest
Anon21

Um, probably? It’s not like Japan was wiped off the face of the Earth, and a lot of people have a lot of money invested in having the season happen, presumably.