A Major League source confirmed Saturday that the Braves have reached an agreement with Kawakami, who has spent the past 11 seasons as one of the top pitchers in Japan's Central League.
As MLB.com reported Friday night, Kawakami is expected to arrive in the United States on Sunday and prepare to finalize this deal with the completion of his physical on Monday. The Braves could make an official announcement on Monday or Tuesday.
Earlier this week, a source with knowledge of the negotiations indicated that Kawakami was impressed with the way the Braves marketed themselves and the city of Atlanta. The 33-year-old right-hander was looking to land with a team that has a chance to win and in a city that possesses Japanese culture.
Kawakami went 9-5 with a 2.30 ERA in 20 appearances (16 starts) and 117 1/3 innings for the Chunichi Dragons this past season. He missed nearly three weeks in September with a strained back and pitched most of the season in a six-man rotation.
Armed with an average fastball that sits around 90 mph, a slow curveball and an effective cutter, Kawakami is projected to serve in the third or fourth spot of a Braves rotation that still lacks a legitimate ace.
The Braves, who acquired Javier Vazquez from the White Sox in December, are planning to make their first formal offer to Derek Lowe on Monday or Tuesday.
If the Braves are able to acquire Lowe, they'd place him at the front of a rotation that would also include Vazquez, Jair Jurrjens and Kawakami. Tom Glavine, James Parr, Jorge Campillo, Jo-Jo Reyes and Charlie Morton are among the potential candidates for the rotation's fifth spot.
Kawakami enjoyed a stellar season in 2004, when he went 17-7 with a 3.32 ERA and two shutouts. He was named the winner of the Sawamura Award, Japan's equivalent of the Cy Young Award, and the Central League MVP.
There's reason to argue Kawakami was better in 2006, when he went 17-7 with a 2.51 ERA, while posting career highs in starts (26) and innings (215)"