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.
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.