Pirates designate Akinori Iwamura for assignment

Leave a comment

To make room for top prospect Pedro Alvarez, the Pirates on Wednesday designated big offseason acquisition Akinori Iwamura for assignment.
The Pirates picked up Iwamura from the Rays in November for reliever Jesse Chavez. But more important than the talent surrendered for him — Chavez was later dealt to Atlanta for Rafael Soriano and is now back in Triple-A — was that Pittsburgh took on a $4.85 million commitment in order to solidify their second-base situation.
It seemed like a safe enough play, if not the wisest way for a likely fifth- or sixth-place team to spend money. Iwamura, 31, was remarkably consistent in his three seasons with Tampa Bay, finishing with OPSs of 770, 729 and 745. He also proved to be an above average defender at second after moving off the hot corner to make room for Evan Longoria.
Iwamura, though, was a disaster for the Pirates, hitting just .182/.292/.267 in 165 at-bats. Primarily a leadoff man, he had scored just 18 runs all season. He had driven in nine.
Given his success in the other league and his ability to play two infield positions pretty well, Iwamura shouldn’t have to wait long to find work after clearing waivers. The Twins would be an obvious fit, given their injury problems and their poor production from third base. The Tigers, Angels, Yankees, A’s, Blue Jays and White Sox are other possibilities. Most would probably want him to head to Triple-A for a few weeks to find his swing, but it’s possible some team would give him a chance right away.

What happens with all the players the Braves lost yesterday?

Braves
5 Comments

Yesterday’s unprecedented sanctions leveled on the Atlanta Braves hit them pretty hard, but it also turned a dozen players into free agents. What happens to them now? Who can sign them? When? And for how much?

First off, they get to keep their signing bonuses the Braves gave them. It wasn’t their fault the Braves messed up so it would make no sense for them to have to pay the money back. As for their next team: anyone can, theoretically, sign them. As far as team choice, they are free agents in the most narrow sense of the term.

There are limits, however, because as young, international players, their signings are subject to those caps on each team’s international bonus money which were imposed a few years back. Each team now has a “pool” of finite dollars they can spend on such players and, once that money is spent, teams are severely limited as to what they can offer an international free agent. Each summer the bonus pools are reset and it starts anew.

Which, on the surface, would seem to create a problem for the 12 new free agents, seeing as though a lot of teams have already spent much if not all of their July 2017-18 bonus pools. The good news on that, though, is that Major League Baseball has made a couple of exceptions for these guys:

  • First, the first $200,000 of any of the 12 former Braves players will not be subject to signing pools, so that’s a bit of a break; and
  • Second, even though these players will all likely be signed during the 2017-18 bonus pool period, teams have the option of counting the bonus toward the 2018-19 period. They can’t combine the money from the two periods, but they can, essentially, put off the cost into next year for accounting purposes.

Which certainly opens things up for clubs and gives the players more options as far as places to land go. A club can decide whether or not the guys on the market now look better than the guys they’ve been scouting with an eye toward signing after July 2018 and get a jump on things. Likewise, teams don’t have to decide whether or not to take a run at, say, Shohei Ohtani, burning bonus money now, or instead going after a former Braves player. Ohtani’s money will apply now, the Braves player can be accounted for next year.

The new free agents are eligible to sign during a window that begins on December 5 and ends on Jan. 15. If a player hasn’t signed by then, he can still sign with any club but cannot get a bonus. If a player hasn’t signed anywhere by May 1, 2018, he has the option of re-signing with the Braves, though they can’t pay the guy a bonus either.

Ben Badler of Baseball America has a rundown of the top guys who are now free agents thanks to the Braves’ malfeasance. Kevin Maitan is the big name. The 17-year-old shortstop was considered the top overall international free agent last year, though his first year in the Braves minor league system was less-than-impressive. There are a lot of other promising players too. All of whom now can find new employers.