Kenshin Kawakami presents an interesting case for the Houston Astros. Kawa fits pretty well into Houston’s roster and could be had for very little. The Braves aren’t looking for much at all since baseball franchises don’t seem privy to paying someone $7 million for a year of minor-league service. Atlanta is rumored to be willing to pay around half of his salary just to get the rest of the money off the books. KK could be an Astro likely for $3,000,000 of his salary and a non-prospect to send to Atlanta. This could very well be the best deal Houston will find for another quality starting pitcher. Before you get too skeptical, let’s look at just how ‘quality’ Kawakami has been in the States.
In 2009, Kawakami was one of the better 5th starters in the game with a 3.86 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, and 107 ERA+ over 32 games and 25 starts. However, many didn’t notice how well he actually pitched due to his 7-12 record. In 2010, Kawakami’s record was even worse; 1-10. But he didn’t pitch nearly that bad. His 5.15 ERA was bloated due to a couple bad outings in the bullpen. 16 of his 18 appearances were starts and in those, his ERA was 4.85. But he was still even better than that.
While his 4.21 FIP in 2009 showed he was a bit lucky that year, his 4.35 FIP in 2010 shows he was even more unlucky this year. Also, after having a BABiP of .291 in 2009, it rose to .320 in 2010. Kawakami is almost gauranteed, if given 25 or more starts, to post an ERA in the low 4′s. Bill James projects him to post a 4.32 ERA with his BABiP returning back to a normal level of .303.
The main team rumored to have interest in trading for Kawakami was the Pirates but they have since announced deals with Scott Olsen and Kevin Correia. The Braves are reported to be antsy in dealing the veteran righthander.
Due to the presence of Wandy Rodriguez and J.A. Happ, Houston isn’t forced to try and procure a lefthander to round out the rotation. Kawakami would be a great fit in Houston and could be their most cost-effective option if Ed Wade decides to use Figueroa out of the bullpen as a 6th starter/depth option.