As the Braves continue to attempt to trade Kenshin Kawakami, or sell him to a Japanese team, they'll do so without him on their 40-man roster.
Kawakami passed through waivers and was sent outright to the Double-A Mississippi roster. The 34-year-old right-hander has gone 8-22 with a 4.32 ERA in 50 appearances (41 starts) since signing a three-year, $23 million contract with the Braves before the start of the 2009 season.
Braves general manager Frank Wren confirmed that he would spend a portion of this offseason trying to find Kawakami a new employer. Major League clubs have proven reluctant to trade for the Japanese hurler and also assume a healthy portion of the $6.67 million he is still owed in the final year of his contract.
Multiple Japanese clubs have shown interest in Kawakami, and a month ago at least one seemed to be willing to pay approximately half of his remaining salary. But as Wren moves forward in his attempt to reconstruct his roster, he still doesn't know if he'll be able to gain some extra funds by either selling or trading Kawakami.
Multiple attempts this week to reach Kawakami's agent, Dan Evans, proved unsuccessful. There is some reason to believe that the veteran pitcher would prefer to continue pitching in the United States.
The Yomiuri Giants and Nippon Ham Fighters are among the Japanese clubs that are believed to have shown interest in Kawakami. But another unidentified Japanese team provided the Braves reason to believe they would be willing to assume more of the $6.67 million figure than the two other clubs.
Kawakami has revealed that he does not like pitching in the Tokyo Dome, which serves as the home for the Yomiuri Giants. But if he remains with the Braves, he might have to find a liking to pitch in Minor League ballparks.
After Kawakami went 1-9 with a 4.48 ERA in his first 15 starts this year, the Braves put him in their bullpen and provided him just a one-inning relief appearance before optioning him to Triple-A Gwinnett in August.
Given a chance to make an emergency start in place of an injured Derek Lowe on Sept. 3, Kawakami allowed the Marlins five earned runs and issued four walks in a 73-pitch, three-inning effort. He pitched just one more inning of relief the remainder of the season.
Instead of allowing Kawakami to pitch in place of an injured Jair Jurrjens, the Braves gave Brandon Beachy three starts during the regular season's final two weeks. Beachy, who was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2008, had made a total of 21 Minor League starts before being thrust into the thick of a pennant race.
When the Braves traveled to San Francisco to begin their National League Division Series, they did not include Kawakami in their traveling party. Once the regular season was complete, they told him he was free to return to his native Japan.
Front office changes
Braves general manager Frank Wren is looking forward to the opportunity to benefit from the experience and knowledge that former Major League manager Lee Elia and highly-regarded scout Bob Johnson will now provide his organization.
The Braves announced on Friday that Johnson has been hired to serve as a special assistant to the general manager and that Elia will serve as a Major League and Minor League instructor. As reported earlier this week, the club has also hired former Orioles manager Dave Trembley to serve as their Minor League field coordinator.
Johnson will primarily serve as one of the Braves' advance scouts. This is a role he has previously held with the Mets (2007-10), Rangers (2005-06) and A's (1997-2004).
Recognized as an opinionated personality with a wealth of knowledge and solid relationships throughout the league, the 63-year-old Johnson has become well respected among his peers. An American League scout recently described him as "the best in the business."
Elia has spent most of the past four decades serving as a Minor League manager and both scout and manager at the Major League level. The 73-year-old citizen of Philadelphia was most recently employed by the Dodgers as a special assistant to general manager Ned Colletti.
During a long career that dates back to when he signed with the Phillies in 1958, Elia has served as a coach for the Phillies, Yankees, Blue Jays, Rays, Orioles and Mariners. He experienced short managerial stints with the Cubs (1982-83) and Phillies (1987-88).
Trembley served as the Orioles' manager over a four-year span that ended with his dismissal in June. During a 21-season stint as a Minor League manager, he won two titles and was named Manager of the Year in three different leagues. In 2001 Baseball America named him one of the top five managers of the previous 20 years.