Akinori Iwamura left Japan in November of 2006 at age 28, signing a three-year, $7.7 million contract with Tampa Bay after the Rays paid a $4.55 million posting fee just for the rights to negotiate with him.
He gave the Rays a solid return on that investment for two-and-a-half seasons, hitting .281/.354/.393 with good defense at second base and third base, but suffered a knee injury in mid-2009 and never really recovered.
Traded to Pittsburgh last offseason, Iwamura was released by the Pirates after hitting .182 in 54 games and then batted .129 in 10 games after joining the A’s down the stretch.
And now he’s headed back to Japan, with Kyodo News reporting that Iwamura has agreed to terms with the Rakuten Eagles.
Knee surgery was especially tough for Iwamura to come back from because speed and defense are such big parts of his game, but he’s still just 31 years old and it wouldn’t be shocking to see him put together a couple strong seasons in Japan to resurface on the MLB radar.