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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Paul Thomas
Paul Thomas

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.