On Monday, the Pittsburgh Pirates were reported to have shown interest in Atlanta Braves starter Kenshin Kawakami. Yesterday there was speculation that their interest may be cooling after the signings of Kevin Correia and Scott Olsen. However, Dejan Kovacevic updates us today by saying that he’s hearing the Pirates are still talking trade for Kawakami.
With Correia and Olsen on the verge of completing their deals, you have to wonder why the Pirates are pursuing Kawakami. He’s coming off a down year, with a 5.15 ERA in 87.1 innings in 2010. He had a much better season in 2009, with a 3.86 ERA in 156.1 innings. His ratios were similar each year, with a career 6.1 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9.
He’s not as bad as the 2010 season, although he probably won’t repeat the 2009 season, putting him somewhere in the middle. The Braves are reportedly willing to pick up all but $1-2 M of his salary, and aren’t asking for much in return, so he wouldn’t be a costly addition.
Then there’s another theory. There’s always talk about the Pirates taking on a bad contract to get a good trade return. What could the Pirates get if they agreed to pick up the full $6.667 M owed to Kawakami? Would that land them a pitching prospect? The Braves would reportedly trade Brandon Beachy in the right deal. David Lee of Tomahawk Take has a great write up of Beachy. In short, he has been clocked with a 94 MPH fastball, which might be higher, and has a plus curveball.
He made three starts in the majors last year, with a 3.00 ERA in 15 innings, along with a 15:7 K/BB ratio. In the minors he had a breakout season, with a 1.47 ERA in 73.2 innings at AA, mostly in relief, along with a 100:22 K/BB ratio. He moved up to AAA as a starter and had a 2.17 ERA in 45.2 innings, along with a 48:6 K/BB ratio.
Beachy would be a very interesting pitching prospect, and a guy who could challenge to enter the rotation at the start of the 2011 season. The price to acquire him might be very reasonable if the Pirates were to pick up all of Kawakami’s 2011 salary. Obviously this is just speculation, as any other reason to pursue Kawakami at this point doesn’t make much sense. If the Pirates went with this approach, then trading for Kawakami wouldn’t be a bad move at all.
UPDATE 2:47 PM: Jayson Stark tweets with an update, saying that one of the hold-ups of a deal with either the Orioles or Pirates is money, and that teams are asking the Braves to eat up to $5 M of Kawakami’s $6.667 M salary.