Pirates Trade For Akinori Iwamura In Radical Attempt To Be Less Terrible

The Pirates have traded 26-year-old reliever Jesse Chavez to the Tampa Bay Rays for 31-year-old Akinori Iwamura, a left-handed-hitting infielder who’s played second and third in parts of three seasons with the Rays but who appeared in only 69 games last season because of injury and the emergence of Ben Zobrist.

Compare Iwamura’s numbers to that of the Buccos’ All-Star second baseman of yesteryear —

2009 Freddy Sanchez:
489 PA, .293 / .326 / .416, 7 HR

Akinori Iwamura career numbers, per 162 GP:
719 PA, .281 / .354 / .393, 7 HR

Those Iwamura numbers include his age 29 and 30 seasons, so they’re not exactly comparable to Sanchez’s, but still — Iwamura’s production across his three-year career has been almost imperceptibly different from that of Sanchez’s healthy 2009, with a slightly higher OBP and very slightly less power (though the power gap might even narrow, as Iwamura is a lefty heading to PNC Park).

Like most bloggers, I’m inherently skeptical to believe that teams like the Rays, Twins, Marlins, or A’s have lost a trade (it’s the opposite when the Royals, Giants, or Mets make a deal), but I’m in favor of the Pirates’ move here, and I feel like I’m in the majority among Pirate fans.

Let’s give this a second to sink in:

Iwamura has one year and $4.85 remaining on his contract, so he’s a reasonably priced but significant defensive and even offensive upgrade at second over Delwyn Young, who will likely return to the bench/spot-starter role for which he’s better suited.

Jesse Chavez was one of the Pirates’ more reliable relievers last season, pitching 67 1/3 innings at a league-average 4.01 ERA, and he’s 26 and under team control for at least five more seasons. Still, the Pirates have taken a rare short-term gamble by acquiring a potentially productive everyday player and left-handed-bat at a position of intense organizational need for the cost of a theoretically replaceable right-handed reliever. It’s an out-of-character trade for the Huntington regime in terms of age and the years of team control involved, but at the most basic level, the Pirates have acquired the more useful player in this deal — taking advantage of the Rays’ unwillingness to pay nearly $5 mil to the guy playing behind Zobrist — and are a better team now than they were two days ago.

If Iwamura is productive but the Pirates fail to work out a long term deal, and we’ve already established that two months of 31-year-old, injury-prone, UFA-to-be Freddy Sanchez is worth Tim Alderson to the Giants, then surely a productive 31-year-old Iwamura would fetch more than Jesse Chavez at the 2010 Deadline.

And, as Dave Cameron of Fangraphs notes in this interesting (if unspecific) post, even if the Pirates don’t go anywhere next season (I know that’s a remote proposition), there’s still some inherent value to the short-term improvement of a non-playoff team.

Basically, Neal Huntington just traded for a more expensive, older player who fills a position of immediate need and helps the Pirates in the short-term.

But…if it’s Opposite Day, doesn’t that mean everything’s the opposite so it’s NOT Opposite Day?

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One Response to “Pirates Trade For Akinori Iwamura In Radical Attempt To Be Less Terrible”

  1. k Says:

    Didn’t even consider the 2010 trade value aspect. Well said.

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