Blue Jays outright Kawasaki, Johnson, Kottaras

Munenori Kawasaki.

The Toronto Blue Jays got their off-season started Friday, officially removing three players from their 40-man roster.

The Blue Jays announced that they outrighted infielder Munenori Kawasaki, first baseman Dan Johnson and catcher George Kottaras to triple-A Buffalo, but both Johnson and Kottaras elected free agency.

Kawasaki’s contract allows him to hit free agency as well, but as GM Alex Anthopoulos explained on the final day of the regular season, the Blue Jays would like to bring him back.

“I think that goes without saying,” Anthopoulos said. “I haven’t talked to him. I don’t know what his desires are. I don’t think the finances have ever been an issue for him. My understanding is he can make more money in Japan, but he’s wanted to play here. We’ll see. I don’t know what his goals are for the offseason, but at some point we’ll sit down with him.”

Kottaras appeared in four games with the Blue Jays after signing with Toronto as a free agent in August. The Scarborough, Ont. native offers power from the left side with 32 home runs in 858 career plate appearances. With Dioner Navarro and Josh Thole in place, there was no immediate place for Kottaras on the big league roster.

Johnson, 35, appeared in 15 games with the Blue Jays, posting a .675 OPS with one home run. He's a lifetime .236/.337/.409 hitter with experience in parts of nine MLB seasons. However, it became clear that Johnson had slipped on Toronto's depth chart when manager John Gibbons called on him just twice in September.

Kottaras, who earned a base salary of $1,075,000 in 2014, would have been eligible for arbitration this off-season along with Johnson. These moves amount to early non-tenders that will open up 40-man roster space for Toronto and enable the players to pursue opportunities sooner.