Blue Jays Roster: Why Munenori Kawasaki?


The Blue Jays roster has been augmented quite a bit over the last week or so. All of the additions means that there will have to be some subtraction of some sort. Well, that came in the form of Danny Valencia being designated for assignment. He was promptly claimed by the Oakland Athletics. The Blue Jays then called up Munenori Kawasaki. While this wasn’t exactly swapping the two, it kind of felt like it. This caused quite a bit of complaining from Blue Jays fans. After bringing in such impact players, why turn around and add Kawasaki, a light hitter and and average defender?

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My first reaction to the Valencia move was ‘who will play third if there is an injury?’. I also knocked on wood and performed other voodoo rituals to ensure this would not actually happen. See, to me, Valencia’s value lies in his ability to play 1B and 3B as well as hitting lefty pitching. By getting rid of him, there is no backup infielder of his skill set. Justin Smoak is a switch hitter, but strikes out an awful lot. That said, he is the better defensive choice at first. Chris Colabello is kind of a Jack of All Trades, Master of None kind of player right now. He can play first base, but the Blue Jays are keeping him around for his bat. The bat, though, is starting to come down to normal levels.

But, for right now, they can’t ignore his success. None of these options solved the outfield situation. So, Ben Revere was brought in. That meant the 4th outfielder job went to Ezequiel Carrera, leaving the above group to fight over limited space. Danny V found himself the odd man out. But, there is still an issue that needed to be addressed. 

Toronto Blue Jays
Toronto Blue Jays /

Toronto Blue Jays

With Devon Travis out, Ryan Goins slides in to the everyday 2B job. He’s looked quite good there. And, his bat has been pretty hot lately. Just ask Ervin Santana. In order to get the most coverage from the least number of players (there is only room for 25), the Blue Jays had to make a decision. It is interesting that they elected to stick with an 8 man bullpen and remove Valecnia. Though, that could change with the possibility of bringing up Josh Thole. Regardless, the call up of Kawasaki reflects an effort to cover as many scenarios as possible.

Kawasaki brings the ability to play SS, 2B AND 3B. He won’t win a Gold Glove in any of those positions. But, he’ll work hard and play respectably over a short period of time. According to, Kawasaki has been worth a total DRS of -3 at 2B, 1 at 3B, and 2 at SS. He has the range good enough to play all three positions with recent UZR/150 ratings of 7.7 at 2B (2015), 20.3 at 3B (2014) and 30.2 at SS (2014). These numbers reflect limited appearances. But, that is the point.  In 2014, he was tasked with much more playing time than he should have been. And, that is when you see the poorer defensive numbers. In limited time, Kawasak has been good.

We know his approach at the plate is to wait out pitchers and hope for the walk. He’s the greatest example of playing the odds. If a batter just goes up to the plate and never swings the bat, how often will he get on base? Watch Kawasaki’s at bats and you’ll get your answer. His approach is not going to win a World Series, but it will maximize his limited playing time.

And, that is why he’s with the Toronto Blue Jays right now. He’s a “just in case” option. He may not see much time other than giving guys days off. That is how it should be. Now, the argument against this is: if that is true, then why not call him up if an injury occurred and hold on to Danny V as long as possible? That is a good question. Right now, the reason for having Kawasaki seems to be trying to have as much versatility on their bench. Perhaps the club rushed that decision.

Or, perhaps you can see another reason for him being on the Blue Jays bench. Feel free to leave your two cents below in the comment section. This is an interesting conversation. Please join in.

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