Kawakami passed through waivers and was sent outright to the Double-A Mississippi roster. The 34-year-old right-hander has gone 8-22 with a 4.32 ERA in 50 appearances (41 starts) since signing a three-year, $23 million contract with the Braves before the start of the 2009 season.
Braves general manager Frank Wren confirmed that he would spend a portion of this offseason trying to find Kawakami a new employer. Major League clubs have proven reluctant to trade for the Japanese hurler and also assume a healthy portion of the $6.67 million he is still owed in the final year of his contract.
Multiple Japanese clubs have shown interest in Kawakami, and a month ago at least one seemed to be willing to pay approximately half of his remaining salary. But as Wren moves forward in his attempt to reconstruct his roster, he still doesn't know if he'll be able to gain some extra funds by either selling or trading Kawakami.
Multiple attempts this week to reach Kawakami's agent, Dan Evans, proved unsuccessful. There is some reason to believe that the veteran pitcher would prefer to continue pitching in the United States.
The Yomiuri Giants and Nippon Ham Fighters are among the Japanese clubs that are believed to have shown interest in Kawakami. But another unidentified Japanese team provided the Braves reason to believe they would be willing to assume more of the $6.67 million figure than the two other clubs.
Kawakami has revealed that he does not like pitching in the Tokyo Dome, which serves as the home for the Yomiuri Giants. But if he remains with the Braves, he might have to find a liking to pitch in Minor League ballparks.
After Kawakami went 1-9 with a 4.48 ERA in his first 15 starts this year, the Braves put him in their bullpen and provided him just a one-inning relief appearance before optioning him to Triple-A Gwinnett in August.
Given a chance to make an emergency start in place of an injured Derek Lowe on Sept. 3, Kawakami allowed the Marlins five earned runs and issued four walks in a 73-pitch, three-inning effort. He pitched just one more inning of relief the remainder of the season.
Instead of allowing Kawakami to pitch in place of an injured Jair Jurrjens, the Braves gave Brandon Beachy three starts during the regular season's final two weeks. Beachy, who was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2008, had made a total of 21 Minor League starts before being thrust into the thick of a pennant race.
When the Braves traveled to San Francisco to begin their National League Division Series, they did not include Kawakami in their traveling party. Once the regular season was complete, they told him he was free to return to his native Japan.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.