Iwamura a student of (ancient) history

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iwamura-rays-091104-450pm.jpgAkinori 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.

Follow me on Twitter at @Bharks. For more baseball news, go to NBCSports.com.

Astros talking to Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole about extensions

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It’s extension season and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Astros — who already agreed to an extension with Alex Bregman — are discussing contract extensions with Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole.

Funny thing about Verlander, by the way: when he got his current $180 million deal, most people fell into the “oh, there’s an overpay!” column. What’s more, this past winter, when everyone was talking about how bad it is to give guys big long term deals, Verlander’s name was notably absent in the conversation despite the fact that his deal has turned out to be quite good. I suppose that says something about how good the anti-long-term deal folks are at cherrypicking.

That being said, Rosenthal says “it would be an upset” if either Verlander or Cole signed extensions. I can see that. Verlander is locked up this year and has a vesting option for 2020, and a lot can happen in a year or two. Cole is a Scott Boras client and Boras clients tend to hit the market rather than sign extensions. Perhaps their former teammate, Dallas Keuchel‘s, terrible experience on the free agent market this winter will alter that calculus. Hard to say.