View Full Version : Pirates acquire Iwamura from Rays

11-04-2009, 09:55 PM

The Pittsburgh Pirates have been plugging holes after trades for years, but filling the Freddy Sanchez void proved difficult.

On Tuesday, the team agreed to acquire second baseman Akinori Iwamura from the Tampa Bay Rays for reliever Jesse Chavez.


The deal was first reported by ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney.

The Pirates tried to work out an extension with Sanchez before the trade deadline, but after he rejected their overture, the Pirates traded him to the San Francisco Giants. Sanchez just signed a two-year, $12 million deal with San Francisco.

Iwamura will earn $4.85 million for 2010, through a club option negotiated in his original contract.

After Iwamura was hurt early in the 2009 season, Ben Zobrist developed into an excellent alternative for the Rays. By making this deal, Tampa Bay saves the $650,000 buyout on Iwamura's contract -- which they would have had to have paid if they had just rejected Iwamura's contract option -- and they get a serviceable and cheap young pitcher in Chavez, who won't be eligible for arbitration until after the 2011 season.

"We've got areas we really need to try to address," Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said, specifically mentioning the bullpen and catcher as priorities this offseason.

When the Pirates traded Sanchez, a three-time All-Star, he was leading the team in hitting. Delwyn Young stepped in at second and batted .266 with seven homers and 43 RBIs, but he struck out 90 times in 354 at-bats. The Pirates' top second base prospect, Chase d'Arnaud, isn't close to being ready for the majors.

Iwamura was batting over .300 early last season for the Rays before sustaining partial tears of the anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in his left knee. He returned in September and batted .290 for the season in 69 games. He was Tampa's everyday second baseman when the Rays went to the World Series in 2008 and batted .274 with six homers, 48 RBIs and a .349 on-base percentage.

"He is a good athlete with above-average speed and is a tough out with a solid career on-base percentage," Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said. "Additionally, he played Gold Glove-caliber third base for years in Japan and has made a smooth transition to second base."

Once the Rays determined they were not going to pick up Iwamura's option for 2010, Friedman listened to offers for a trade.

"Pittsburgh has been all over us for about a month," Friedman said.

Chavez led Pittsburgh and all major league rookies with 73 appearances in 2009, going 1-4 with a 4.01 ERA in 67 1/3 innings. He was taken in the 42nd round in 2002 by Texas, and made his major league debut with the Pirates with 15 appearances in 2008.

The Rays believe the 26-year-old has the potential to develop into an outstanding reliever.

"This year was a good year," Friedman said. "We feel like he has the tools and ability to have an even better year."

Iwamura was a five-time All-Star and six-time Gold Glove third baseman in Japan. In three seasons in Tampa Bay, he batted .281 with 14 homers, 104 RBIs and 29 stolen bases while playing third base for one year and second for the past two.

His unselfish transition from third to second base in 2008 -- a move that opened a position for All-Star Evan Longoria -- was one of the keys to Tampa Bay's transformation from a perennial last-place team into AL champions.

"It is hard to put into words what Aki has meant to the organization," Friedman said.

Pittsburgh takes on Iwamura's option, which the Pirates can pay because their already low payroll was trimmed when they dealt Sanchez, Adam LaRoche, Jack Wilson, Nate McLouth, Nyjer Morgan and Eric Hinske during the season.

Coming off a major league-record 17th consecutive losing season in which they lost 99 games, the Pirates also needed to make a move to at least appease a dwindling fan base that was angered by yet another season of player departures.

11-04-2009, 10:01 PM

The news broke out today that the Pittsburgh Pirates acquired infielder Akinori Iwamura from the Tampa Bay Rays for reliever Jesse Chavez. Now, there have been many sources of analysis on this topic, so I won't delve too much further into this, but I did think it would be nice for us to whip out the good ol' fashioned Sky Kalkman Trade Value Calculator (a Beyond the Box Score original!) once again.

The Players

Akinori Iwamura was the Rays' starting second baseman this season, having moved from third base to the keystone last season to make way for the long-awaited arrival of Evan Longoria. Since arriving in Tampa from Japan, Iwamura has been a solidly average to above average player for the team, posting WAR totals of 2.4 and 2.6 in 2007 and 2008 respectively, according to FanGraphs. Iwamura accomplished these totals in an extremely average way. His wOBA totals of .338 and .323, when park adjusted, yielded runs above average (RAA) totals of 4.7 and -1.1 runs in 2007 and 2008 respectively. Iwamura's defense was just around average as well, both at 3B (career UZR/150 of -0.2 runs) and at second (career UZR/150 of 1.1 runs).

So what you see in Iwamura is a slightly above average bat and an average glove at two "neutral" defensive positions of second and third base. In 2009, this trend did not seem to change, as Iwamura was posting a .338 wOBA at the plate and was worth, in total, 1.2 WAR before going down to injury for the season on a hard slide by Florida Marlins' rookie Chris Coghlan.

Without going through much of a projection, I feel fairly confident that I can pencil in Iwamura for production equal to his career .331 wOBA. For defense, I took a look at Iwamura's numbers both in UZR and TotalZone, and both seem to be in agreement of him being fairly average at either second or third base. The Fans seem to think quite highly of him, and because of that I'll give him a slight bump up to a +1 run defender. Using those numbers and the sort of playing time Iwamura gathered in 2008 gives you the following value from the calculator:

Essentially, Iwamura would be making the Pirates $7.5M in surplus value for his projected production. Based on what they gave up for him, that total is likely to be the total surplus value for the trade as well.

Jesse Chavez is a 26-year old righty reliever who has logged 82 1/3 innings in the major leagues for the Pirates organization. R.J. Anderson over at DRaysBay provides a better look at Chavez than what I will show you, but what I can tell you is that Chavez has walked and struck out batters at a decent enough rate over those innings. However, he has had a problem with home runs which has been exacerbated by allowing only 40% of batted balls to roll on the ground as opposed to flying through the air. He also has a severe lefty-rigthy split, though it seems reversed as R.J. mentions in the linked piece. Ultimately though, Chavez appears just another guy in the bullpen, someone whose production can be leveraged but is otherwise unspectacular and eminently replaceable. Given his career WAR total of -0.4 with the Pirates, placing him at around replacement level production is not a total stretch.

And now the context part

As many have been mentioning in analysis of this deal, when taken in a vacuum, the Pirates clearly came out a winner. Pittsburgh gets to fill a gaping hole at second base with a player who is more than capable of performing at or above league average level. The Pirates should be quite happy to have Iwamura on their team to replace Delwyn Young at second base.

The Rays appear to have gotten very little in return for Iwamura, but this was to be expected. They had a logjam in the infield and Iwamura's $4.85M option was unlikely to be picked up. In order to salvage some value from him instead of paying his buyout and receiving nothing, the Rays turned the $500K they would have paid to have Iwamura leave and instead received an arbitration-controlled arm that could presumably be plugged into their bullpen at a slight discount. The Rays had little to no leverage and came out with another player on their roster who will make very little and the difference between the buyout and the rookie salary. It cannot be considered a win, but the Rays simply cannot be blamed. Call it a win-neutral, if you will.

I think this is a great move by the Bucs. They fill a huge hole at 2nd base. Young is a below average player, with horrible defense at 2nd. Iwamura is a lot like Sanchez, but more patient at the plate, and his defense is above average. Great move.

11-06-2009, 08:23 AM
I love the quote I read from a Pirates official saying that Iwamura is paid 7 million this year and this was a move to shot Pirate fans they are gonna spend money.

11-06-2009, 08:37 AM
He's only making $4.85 million, per the first article. That $7.5 million in the second article is based on potential value, meaning that they should get the production of a player that makes $7.5 million out of Iwamura based on the author's calculations. Either way, I like the trade - addresses a need with an above-average player, which is really all you need at 2B and, when you get right down to it, was all that Freddy Sanchez was if you remove the bat. And all they gave up was Chavez, a typical dime-a-dozen average reliever.

11-09-2009, 08:14 AM
I like this trade, Delwyn Young is better coming off the bench and he is more useful since they can use him as an outfielder now too.