Pirates Set to Acquire Akinori Iwamura

As Dave alluded to earlier, the Pirates are set to acquire second baseman Akinori Iwamura from the Rays for (per Ken Rosenthal) right-handed reliever Jesse Chavez.

In a vacuum, this is a win for the Pirates. Iwamura is at-worst a league average player making less than what a win costs. His second base defense is average to slightly above, although his quick feet sometimes gives the impression of so much more. Iwamura’s cat-like agility is met with crisp and precise footwork. His range appears weak going towards his right. Offensively, Iwamura shows strong discipline at the plate (an O-Swing% of 14.5) and has walked 10% of the time in his three seasons in America. His career wOBA of .331 is quite reflective of his skill set. The Pirates figure to bat Iwamura second and this probably ends Delwyn Young’s tenure as a starting second baseman, barring something unforeseen like Iwamura shifting back to third and displacing Andy LaRoche and Neil Walker further.

Chavez is a right-handed reliever with a plus-plus change and velocity that sits in the 94-96 range. Thanks to that change he has a reverse platoon split, and is exceptional versus lefties. He figures to profile as a late inning reliever with the Rays, although he’s had issues with home runs which, if fixed, could really change the dynamic of his career arc. Whether that change actually occurs is up to Chavez and the Rays coaching staff to figure out. Ben Zobrist, Willy Aybar, and Sean Rodriguez figure to see some time at second base and there’s still the question of whether the Rays will trade Jason Bartlett or not.

Again, without the context that the Rays were going to lose Iwamura for nothing in a few weeks this looks like a lopsided win for the Pirates. The Rays’ hands were tied and Iwamura’s injury in May derailed any chances of swapping him out prior to the trade deadline. They get a potentially semi-useful part, but there’s little doubt Iwamura will likely prove more valuable to his new team than Chavez – that’s not a knock on Chavez either, full-time players are generally more valuable than relievers.

Watching Iwamura play over the last three seasons has been quite the thrill. He possesses a unique style foreign to most players. Between his hair cuts, futuristic sunglasses, or alligator-skinned glove, Iwamura is an enjoyable character for more than stereotypical (and at times xenophobic) reasons. Combine these perks with being an average hitter and fielder and the Pirates are getting a fun player in return.




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18 Responses to “Pirates Set to Acquire Akinori Iwamura”

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  1. Paul Thomas says:

    Why were the Rays going to lose Iwamura in a few weeks?

    It’s not like they were going to bounce a check or something. His salary doesn’t come due until the season starts. They had plenty of time to pick up the option and then trade him afterward.

    Unnecessary panic fire sale, IMO. The Rays got taken for a ride in this trade.

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  2. Mark says:

    Looking at his BABIPs by the month, Bartlett seems like a great sell-high player, but what is the price?

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    • Trenchtown says:

      Bartlett had the highest LD% in the game this year. Now that might have been a fluke as it was higher then his career LD%, but if there was some skill to it then you might not want to sell on Bartlett unless someone blows you away with an offer

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  3. Max says:

    “They had plenty of time to pick up the option and then trade him afterward.”

    No they didn’t. They had within a day after the end of the World Series, per the terms of the contract.

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  4. Max says:

    Oh, I see what you’re saying. Pick up the option, then try to trade him later. Still, that’s a risk probably not worth taking for teams that are probably facing declining ticket sales and shrinking revenues. The Rays are probably just eager to get rid of the salary and I can’t see the market being that great for one year of Iwamura.

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    • Paul Thomas says:

      The fact that the team that picked him up was THE PIRATES should say something about his contract’s price-to-production ratio…

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      • Bill says:

        Hey come on, the Buc’s fans have suffered enought. Huntington seems to have them moving in the right direction. He just turned a dime a dozen reliever into an above average second baseman. This seems like a move to show the fans that the Buc’s have some interest in winning next season, but it doesn’t compromise their future in any way. In 2011, Iwamura will be gone and they will shift LaRoche over to second to make room for Alvarez. Picking up Iwamura makes it less likely that they will be forced into rushing Alvarez to the bigs. It seems like a very sensible trade for both parties.

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      • Paul Thomas says:

        Not what I was getting at at all… perhaps my snark was unclear.

        I wasn’t implying that the Pirates were stupid, I was implying that they were poor.

        If it’s not clear from my other comments on this thread, I think this was a complete walkover win for the Pirates.

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  5. Tom Coughlin says:

    I would have traded him for two beers and a hot dog, anything to stop hearing the term ‘Aki Knocki’ after every hit of his. On a more serious note, the Pirates made a good move here, but so did the Rays, the Pirates identified Aki as an atleast average player who could be had for little, and the Rays saved at min. a 250K buyout, while receiving a guy who appears to have decent upside as a reliever or the next 6 years. This trade is a Win-Win move, that shows the new Pirates FO is continuing last years competence, and extends the recent trend of smart Rays FO moves.

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  6. Logan says:

    I wish this site would analyze politics. Then maybe I’d care. (Heck, if you can get me to care about a second-string 2B going from Tampa to Pittsburgh…)

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    • Bill says:

      God no, people always bring too much baggage to political discussions. Here we have a discussion on short term verses long term gain. Since nobody has any real emotional connection to the issue, the discussion remains analytical. If it would instead be about say, the merits of the President’s stimulus package, the discussion would be full of people arguing in favor of it just because they like the president and people opposed to it just because they dislike the president. That always seems to lead to a very unproductive debate. I’m not really interested in this trade either, but I find the analysis and the discussion of the analysis interesting.

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  7. lookatthosetwins says:

    Where was Bill Smith when all this was going on? Ridiculous they didn’t beat that offer.

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    • Paul Thomas says:

      Was thinking the same thing about Billy Beane.

      The A’s probably have ten relief prospects who are better than this guy. Couldn’t they have spared one of them? A team doesn’t need five closers…

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    • Maxa says:

      Another Twins fan here. Similarly disappointed =\

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      • glp says:

        Amusing note about the Twins in regard to this trade: Early speculation from Rays fans yesterday was that the “mystery team” was the Twins and that they were going to aquire Kevin Slowey for Iwamura.

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  8. Tom Au says:

    The Pirates were just a bit quicker on the trigger, and they had all that money left over from the salary dumps earlier in the year.

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  9. Guapo says:

    I think playing in the pro-LH PNC will help Aki’s SLG percentage. Also going from the strong AL East to the weak NL central will help as well.

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  10. RON says:

    All the comments are one sided to the Rays. The question is why are the Pirates, with so many holes and not many prospects to speak of, are spending this type of money on a 2B? Save the money for higher priorities like improving the young talent. Aki makes what? 4.5 mil? Pirates s/b spending what money they have on other resources

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