Nov 3, 2009, 2:51 PM EDT
Mark Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times reports that the Rays “are on the verge of completing a trade” for Akinori Iwamura.
Recent speculation had the Dodgers and Cubs interested in Iwamura, but Topkin writes that “an unexpected team” would be the destination. Tampa Bay holds a $4.85 million option or $550,000 buyout on Iwamura for 2010 and apparently has no plans to bring him back with Ben Zobrist and prospect Sean Rodriguez available to play second base.
Iwamura missed three months with a torn ACL in his left knee, which is a big concern for a player whose game is based largely on speed. Not only is his range at second base now in question, 12 percent of Iwamura’s career hits haven’t left the infield.
However, if most of his speed and mobility return following the injury Iwamura is a solid all-around player who offers an average glove at second or third base with a career .281/.354/.393 mark at the plate. A left-handed hitter with good plate discipline and modest power, he has on-base percentages of .359, .349, and .355 in three seasons since coming over from Japan while actually performing better against southpaws.
Solid defense, good speed, and a .350 OBP would be nice fit for any number of teams, particularly if the Rays are primarily looking to avoid paying the $550,000 buyout. Tampa Bay has until one day after the World Series to make a decision on Iwamura’s option, so a trade could happen quickly.
UPDATE: Topkin reports that the mystery is … the Pirates. We’ll have a full analysis once the details are announced, but for now Pittsburgh strikes me as an odd fit to say the least.
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