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.
When the Diamondbacks traded Jon Garland to the Dodgers on August 31 they agreed to pay his remaining 2009 salary and cover his $2.5 million buyout for 2010, so it comes as no surprise that Los Angeles officially declined the right-hander’s $10 million option this afternoon.
Garland pitched well for the Dodgers down the stretch, going 3-2 with a 2.72 ERA in six starts, but didn’t appear in the NLDS and was left off the NLCS roster. He finished the year 11-13 with a 4.01 ERA and 109/61 K/BB ratio in 204 innings overall, making at least 32 starts for the eighth straight season and posting an ERA in the 4.00s for the seventh time during that span.
His strikeout rate is among the worst in baseball and Garland doesn’t have especially good control, but he’s incredibly durable, induces plenty of ground balls, and is still just 30 years old despite seemingly being around forever. Garland received $8.75 million in guaranteed money from Arizona as a free agent last offseason and should have no trouble securing a one- or two-year deal for at least $5 million per season this winter.
Akinori Iwamura, who went to the World Series with the Tampa Bay Rays last season, is putting the most optimistic spin possible on his recent trade to the Pittsburgh Pirates:
Iwamura, acquired to be the Pirates’ starting second baseman, is hoping his new team can be a contender soon. Really.
“I know, of course, about Roberto Clemente and that it is a great organization,” Iwamura said after being traded from Tampa Bay to Pittsburgh on Tuesday night.
Maybe Iwamura is just a really nice guy trying to say the right thing. Maybe he’s naturally more optimistic than Richard Simmons.
Or maybe he simply needs a refresher course in Pirates history. The Pirates were, indeed a great franchise, with five championships and nine pennants to their credit. But the 30-year-old Iwamura was 13 the last time the Bucs made the playoffs, which was also the last time they even managed a winning record.
I’m just hoping Iwamura isn’t too disappointed come spring time when the truth smacks him in the face like an A.J. Burnett shaving cream pie. But from what we’ve seen of him so far, maybe he’ll just be happy to play in one of the prettiest stadiums in baseball.
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