Cubs Re-sign Munenori Kawasaki
It was initially reported as a rumor by Japanese media earlier in the week, but Baseball America is now confiming that the Cubs have indeed re-signed INF Munenori Kawasaki to a 2017 minor league contract. He will almost certainly receive a NRI to Spring Training.
Now 35, Kawasaki spent twelve seasons in NPB (the Japanese major league) with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, hitting 294/345/378 with 267 SB in 1,145 NPB games 2000-11. He was an eight-time NPB All-Star, a two-time Gold Glove winner, he led the NPB in stolen bases once, and was a member of Team Japan in the WBC in 2006 and 2009. He was also a fan favorite, one of the most-popular players in Japan.
Kawasaki became an unrestricted free-agent after the 2011 season, and was signed by the Seattle Mariners in December 2011. Over the past five seasons with Seattle, the Toronto Blue Jays, and the Cubs, Kawasaki has logged more Plate Appearances in AAA than he has in MLB, hitting a combined 237/320/289 in 276 MLB games (738 PA) and a combined 255/346/312 in 233 AAA games (815 PA). He hit 255/352/312 in 102 games at AAA Iowa in 2016, almost matching exactly his AAA numbers from the previous four seasons. He is what's known in baseball as a high-contact small-ball slap-hitter (no power, a good bunter, and tough to strike out).
Although he is no longer the player he was in Japan, Kawasaki is still an outstanding defender at SS, 2B, and 3B, and he still runs very well, too. "Moonie" (as he is known) also is a very funny man, keeping his teammates and the media in stitches with his dancing, one-liners, and hilarious interviews.
Kawasaki will likely serve as the utility infielder (SS-2B-3B) at AAA Iowa in 2017, and because he is an outstanding defensive shortstop, will probably get first-call if anything happens to Addison Russell or Javier Baez. However, Kawasaki is out of minor league options (he had a 4th mnor league option available in 2016, and it was spent), so if the Cubs add Kawasaki to the MLB 40-man roster at some point in 2017, he can't be sent back to the minors without first passing through waivers, and he can elect to be a free-agent if he is sent outright to the minors after being added to the 40. So it won't be quite as easy for the Cubs to move Kawasaki up from Des Moines to Chicago and then back again to Des Moines as it was last year.
Also, Kawasaki is an Article XX-B player, so he will receive a $100K retention bonus if he isn't added to the MLB 40-man roster by Opening Day, and he will also receive an automattic June 1st opt-out if he isn't added to the 40 by 6/1. Last year, the Cubs got around that by releasing Kawasaki and two other Article XX-B players signed to minor league contracts (LHRP Manny Parra and OF Shane Victorino) five days prior to MLB Openng Day and then re-signing each of them to another (different) 2016 minor league contract without the Article XX-B rights. (An Article XX-B player gets the $100K retention bonus and automatic 6/1 opt-out only if he signs a minor league contract at least ten days prior to MLB Opening Day, so by releasing Kawasaki, Parra, and Victorino and then re-signing them to a new 2016 minor league contract five days prior to Opening Day, the Article XX-B rights no longer applied).
Arizona Phil 6 hours 12 min ago (view)
DJL: I don't think Ildemaro Vargas being out of minor league options is much of a concern to the Cubs because as things stand right now he projects as the team's primary utility infielder in 2021. He can play all four INF positions (1B, 2B, 3B, and SS, plus corner OF, too), and he is switch hitter with some pop, especially from the right side (remember the 9th inning HR he hit off Josh Hader in September?).
Dolorous Jon Lester 6 hours 55 min ago (view)
I'm a little surprised Ildemaro Vargas was tendered, given that he's out of options. He has value and isn't expensive as he is pre-arb this year, but still a bit surprised. Have to think he's got an inside track to an Opening Day spot at this point
waveland 15 hours 40 min ago (view)
really appreciate the years and years of your updates
Arizona Phil 17 hours 35 min ago (view)
BRADSBEARD: Strumpf was wearing a cast on his hand in Minor League Camp before everything got shut-down in March so his not being at South Bend might have had something to do with that. I don't know why Rivas wasn't at the ATS.
bradsbeard 18 hours 19 min ago (view)
Do you have any idea why Rivas and Strumpf weren't at the alternate site in South Bend? I thought Rivas especially showed enough in ST games to be viewed as a legitimate depth option, especially with the DH.
Arizona Phil 18 hours 53 min ago (view)
Alfonso Rivas reminds me a bit of Rafael Palmeiro when Palmeiro first came up to the big leagues and was a "doubles machine" (before he started hitting home runs).
Rivas played D-1 baseball at the University of Arizona, so (just like Nico Hoerner, who also played in the PAC-12) I don't think he needs a lot of additional time at AAA before he's ready for MLB. He's a very advanced hitter, as long as you are OK with lots of doubles & lots of walks but not many HR.
Dolorous Jon Lester 19 hours 56 min ago (view)
I hadn't thought of that but I really like that option
bradsbeard 20 hours 1 min ago (view)
I really hope Rivas has a chance at the LF job. Would ease some of the sting of Schwarber being cut loose.
Arizona Phil 20 hours 2 min ago (view)
CRUNCH: I got the impression that Ross had seen enough of Schwarber in LF, so implementing the universal DH may be necessary before Schwarber returns to the Cubs in 2021. I think the Cubs would be fine with Schwarber as their main DH going forward.
BTW, I strongly suspect that the universal DH will be included in the next CBA, but whether there will be a DH in the National League in 2021 is still TBA (which is really stupid, since clubs need to know right now for sure one way or the other whether or not there will be a DH in the N. L. in 2021).
Arizona Phil 20 hours 13 min ago (view)
Besides the guys on the 40, Cubs 2021 NRI relievers with a legit chance to win a bullpen slot in Spring Training include LHRPs Josh Osich and Rex Brothers, and RHRPs Jake Jewell, Trevor Megill, Dakota Mekkes, Michael Rucker, and Joe Wieland (presuming they are not taken in the Rule 5 Draft).
Brothers and Wieland are out of minor league options, however, so if added to the 40 they could not ride the "Chicago - Des Moines Shuttle" like the others could.
crunch 20 hours 19 min ago (view)
i am rooting for the cubs to retain schwarber.
even though he's average on the best of days in LF (except his above average arm), i would like to see him and his work ethic remain in the cubs system...the homers from the left side of the plate are nice, too.
Arizona Phil 20 hours 41 min ago (view)
At least as things stand right now, Kris Bryant is your Cubs de facto 2021 Opening Day LF! (Of course we know he will be traded before then...).
Otherwise, minor league NRI outfielders Ian Miller, Michael Hermosillo, and Rafael Ortega will be competing for Opening Day OF slots, with a legit shot to win a job.
Even Alfonso Rivas (who was hitting rockets from foul line to foul line at AZ Instructs) and/or Eddy Julio Martinez (who has had a very good winter in the Mexican Pacific League) might have a shot.
Arizona Phil 20 hours 44 min ago (view)
I would think that both Colin Rea and Kyle Ryan must have signed contracts with minor league split salaries, otherwise I doubt very much that they would have been tendered.
Arizona Phil 20 hours 55 min ago (view)
With Tepera non-tendered and Winkler, Ryan, and Rea signed, the Cubs 2021 Opening Day bullpen (right now) would appear to be Kimbrel (clearly not tradeable), Wick (virtual lock), Winkler (can't be optioned without his consent), Underwood (out of minor league options), and Maples (out of minor league options), and then three from amongst Adam, Norwood, Rea, Ryan, Stock, and Wieck (each of whom can be optioned back & forth to AAA as needed).
Arizona Phil 21 hours 14 min ago (view)
The Cubs have signed RHSP Colin Rea, LHRP Kyle Ryan, and RHRP Dan Winkler to 2021 MLB contracts (terms TBD) and tendered 2021 MLB contracts to all other unsigned players on their MLB Reserve List (40-man roster) except OF Albert Almora, OF-1B Jose Martinez, OF Kyle Schwarber, and RHRP Ryan Tepera.
So Almora, J. Martinez, Schwarber, and Tepera are now unrestricted free-agents, free to sign an MLB or minor league contract with any club (including the Cubs) without any salary restrictions.
The Cubs MLB Reserve List now stands at 34 (six slots are open).
Arizona Phil 21 hours 36 min ago (view)
Keep in mind that as things stand right now the Cubs projected 2021 MLB payroll is almost $50M under the 2021 CBT threshold (which will be $210M), so they don't have to worry about contract AAV if they can sign a player to a multi-year deal with a low 2021 base salary and then substantially higher salaries post-2021 (when they should be able to generate their normal attendance-based revenues --.presuming CoViD-19 is no longer a problem by that time).