Quick show of hands. How many people out there thought that the Toronto Blue Jays would be re-signing shortstop Munenori Kawasaki for the 2014?
Well, those of us who thought it was going to happen, you have been vindicated. The Blue Jays have announced that they have signed Kawasaki to a minor league deal for 2014, including an invitation to spring training according to a tweet from Gregor Chisholm.
#BlueJays have signed Munenori Kawasaki to a Minor League contract with an invite to spring training.
— Gregor Chisholm (@gregorMLB) December 24, 2013
The 32-year-old Kawasaki returns to the team where he became a cult figure in 2013. His quirky behavior, pre-game routines, and warm spirit endeared himself to a fan base that badly needed something to embrace during a rough 2013 season.
Originally signed as organizational depth at shortstop, Kawasaki quickly found himself in the thick of things in Toronto after Jose Reyes‘ horrific ankle injury. Appearing in 96 games, Kawasaki hit .229 with a .326 on-base percentage. His defense was worth 2 defensive runs saved at shortstop, despite the lack of a quality arm, and he finished the season worth nearly a full win above replacement for Toronto.
He will come to spring training attempting to secure a back-up role in an infield that also includes Maicer Izturis and Ryan Goins battling for second base duties. With Toronto also needing a viable option as a back-up at first and third bases respectively, Kawasaki faces an uphill battle to gain a role on the opening day roster. However, he showed in 2013 that he is willing to bide his time at Triple-A Buffalo and rise to the occasion once called upon.