TORONTO -- The Blue Jays gave their fanbase an early holiday present on Tuesday morning with the announcement that infielder Munenori Kawasaki has re-signed with the club on a Minor League contract.
Kawasaki reportedly had been weighing at least one offer to play in Japan, but will instead take his chances in camp with the Blue Jays. As part of the deal, Kawasaki received an invitation to Spring Training and will have a chance to compete for a job off the bench.
The 32-year-old middle infielder became somewhat of a cult sensation in Toronto this past year. He had the unenviable task of filling in for the injured Jose Reyes, but he immediately won over most of the fans with his antics both on and off the field.
Kawasaki will likely begin the year at Triple-A Buffalo, but he could also compete with Ryan Goins and Maicer Izturis for the starting job at second base. It seems doubtful that Kawasaki will pass either of those players on the depth chart, but he once again should provide some much-needed depth in the Minor League system.
The native of Japan hit just .229 with one homer and 24 RBIs in 96 games for the Blue Jays in 2013. He is a relatively steady defender but has limited range, and his throwing arm is more suited to play second base than shortstop. The biggest positive of Kawasaki's game is his ability to work deep into counts and draw walks, as evidenced by his .326 on-base percentage last season.
Toronto could have guaranteed Kawasaki's return earlier this offseason, but the club declined to exercise its $1-million option on his contract. Terms of the new deal were not disclosed.
Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB.