Kawasaki signing appears imminent
The Mariners have not yet finalized a contract with shortstop Munenori Kawasaki, but the eight-time Japanese All-Star told reporters in his homeland Thursday that he indeed will be signing with Seattle.
Kawasaki and the team apparently have a tentative agreement on a Minor League deal with an invitation to camp, but the club has yet to make any announcement on Kawasaki’s status and is likely still formalizing the final deal.
According to an Associated Press report out of Kobe, Japan, Kawasaki said on Thursday that “I’ll be going to Arizona in February to compete for a job.”
Kawasaki, 30, told the Japanese media last month that he wanted to play in the Major Leagues, but only for the Mariners because of his friendship with Ichiro Suzuki. The two have been working out together this offseason in Kobe.
Kawasaki will have to earn his way onto a 40-man roster spot and ultimately a role with the Mariners. Brendan Ryan returns as the starting shortstop and general manager Jack Zduriencik has indicated he’s looking primarily for a backup shortstop and utility infielder.
Luis Rodriguez, who played part of last season with Seattle, also has agreed to a Minor League deal with a camp invite and will compete for the same role.
Kawasaki is regarded as an excellent defender and savvy player in Japan, though he’s mostly a slap hitter and there are questions of how well he’ll adjust offensively in the Majors.
Kawasaki hit .267 in 144 games last season while helping the Softbank Hawks to their first Japan Series championship in eight years.