I have to say, I’m pretty impressed by Tampa Bay’s ability to turn Akinori Iwamura into a young, cost-controllable fireballing reliever.
It was essentially a done deal that Iwamura would become a free agent so Tampa could move to Ben Zobrist as a full-time second baseman (with Sean Rodriguez knocking on the door for playing time). As time was going on, I was beginning to wonder if other teams would just wait out the Rays and bid on Iwamura as a free agent. While Iwamura is a valuable second baseman, he’s definitely overpaid given his $4.25 salary in 2010. The bidding to have Iwamura join a team didn’t seem enough to get a deal done. But it did, and the Pirates were the surprise victors. Iwamura instantly becomes the Pirates’ highest-paid player (which is a whole separate post in and of itself.)
The Rays parlayed someone clearly overpaid — yes, valuable, but overpaid — into Jesse Chavez. The 25-year old just came off a season in which he posted a 4.01 ERA in 67.1 games along with a 1.35 WHIP and 6.3 K/9, a low number given his average velocity off his fastball: 94.5 mph.
The Rays Party goes into an extremely in-depth look at Chavez, so I’ll point you there instead of fumbling my way through it using his data.
Even though Chavez is one of roughly a million live-arm middle relievers to pass through Major League Baseball and has yet to fully prove he belongs in the majors, I’m choosing to look at this glass half-full: the Rays got something for nothing. Iwamura isn’t a zero, but from the Rays’ perspective, he was. That alone makes it a great trade for Tampa.