Yep, the Blue Jays re-signed shortstop Munenori Kawasaki to a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training.
I love Kawasaki and so does most of Toronto and Buffalo if the internet reaction to his play in 2013 is any indication. I’m not completely enthralled with him as a major league baseball player, however, and thus, my enthusiasm is somewhat tempered.
Yes, he has great at bats and had a knack for getting timely hits and for being the glue that kept a team together but I’d much rather have Jose Reyes in my lineup than Munenori Kawasaki.
That said, I think this is a great signing for the fans of the Buffalo Bisons. He was just as much a fan favourite there and it also shows how the Blue Jays are willing to not only acquire players to add depth, just in case injuries decimate the major league club, but also to add players to help the Buffalo Bisons be a competitive team.
In my opinion, this move is as much about continuing to build the strong relationship with the Buffalo Bisons as it is to add infield depth. Buffalo GM Mike Buczkowski has already gone on the record to say that the 2013 Bisons drew about 500 more fans per game than they did in 2012 as an affiliate of the New York Mets. This is already showing that the close proximity to Toronto has increased fan interest and attendance while allowing the Bisons to be fairly competitive in 2013. The return of a fan favourite, Kawasaki, for what we hope will be a full season in Buffalo, will probably be enough to draw even more fans to watch what promises to be a team with far more home-grown talent than the 2013 edition.
The Blue Jays have already signed several minor league infielders, which means that the Buffalo infield is going to be crowded. With Andy LaRoche and Jared Goedert at third base, and Steve Tolleson, Jonathan Diaz and Kawasaki who can all play short and second base, there’s going to be a big fight for playing time in Buffalo, especially if a couple of Double-A infielders make the jump up to the Bisons.
Of these players, however, Kawasaki would probably be the first one called upon if the Jays need help at short or second. Ryan Goins is the first beyond Reyes on the depth chart but with Izturis’s glove (and bat) being so suspect, Kawasaki would probably be the first call up in case of injury.
This signing accomplishes several things. It gives Blue Jays fans (and Bisons fans) a warm, fuzzy feeling about a signing before Christmas, it give the Blue Jays a legitimate 26th man to come up from the minors to fill in at a replacement level should anything untoward happen on the big club and it gives fans a reason to go out to Coca-Cola Field in Buffalo to watch some baseball.
The other thing is that it will keep some players down in Double-A to spend more development time there. It would appear that the log jam in the middle infield will force Kevin Nolan to spend another year in New Hampshire and it probably precludes Andy Burns from moving up to Triple-A any sooner than mid-season.
All in all, I enjoy Munenori Kawasaki, but I’ll be happier if he gets to spend an entire season in Buffalo.