Akinori Iwamura Rumors

Cubs Rumors: Hendry, Bradley, Iwamura

Cubs GM Jim Hendry told Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune that he doesn't feel like he's "on the clock" this year, even though new owners are taking over and the Cubs are coming off a disappointing season. Instead, Hendry says he's focused on building a strong team for 2010.

The Cubs are working on re-signing John Grabow and they'd also like to acquire a speedy leadoff hitter.

The club's direction depends on its ability to move Milton Bradley and the $21MM remaining on his contract. Sullivan speculates on a possible trade that would send Bradley to the Rays for Akinori Iwamura and Pat Burrell

Discussion: Akinori Iwamura

Rays second baseman Akinori Iwamura faces a $4.85MM club option for 2010 with a $550K buyout, according to Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times.  Topkin notes that under the terms of his contract, Iwamura will become a free agent if the Rays decline the option (despite not having six years of service time).

A healthy Iwamura should easily be worth that amount; he was in 2007 and 2008.  However, he was limited to 260 plate appearances this year due to a knee injury.  What's more, the Rays are tight on payroll and have other strong options at second base.

Topkin noted that Iwamura would discuss renegotiating the option at a lower price, because he loves the Tampa area.  That might be hard to resist.  But if the Rays prefer to move on, they could attempt to exercise the option and then trade Iwamura.  According to Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker, Japanese newspaper Sanspo is already speculating on the Dodgers as a fit.

Iwamura still appears capable of a .350 OBP and acceptable defense at second base (he also played third base in '07).  If he reaches free agency or becomes available in trade, which teams make sense?  Aside from the Dodgers, the White Sox, Indians, Tigers, Twins, and Diamondbacks could consider him.

Rays Rumors: Zobrist, Iwamura, Kapler

MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez provides the latest on a few Tampa Bay Rays:

  • If Ben Zobrist becomes the team's everyday second baseman, the club may decide to bring free agent-to-be Gabe Kapler back as a backup outfielder. Kapler made $1MM this year and hit .239/.329/.439 in 245 trips to the plate.
  • If the club keeps Zobrist at second, it appears highly unlikely that the Rays would pick up Akinori Iwamura's $4.25MM option.
  • Other club options to watch: Carl Crawford at $10MM, Gregg Zaun at $2MM and Brian Shouse at $1.9MM.
  • It's likely that the team will look for affordable late-inning relief help. 

Iwamura Wants To Return To Tampa Bay

Earlier in the week we heard speculation that the Rays could decline Akinori Iwamura's $4.25MM option for 2010. The Rays need the money and, because of Jason Bartlett, Reid Brignac and Ben Zobrist, they don't need the middle infield depth. But, according to Mark Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times, Iwamura wants to return.

"I love this team," he said through his interpreter, "and I love the Tampa area."

The 30-year-old second baseman has a .294/.356/.388 line this year, right in line with his career averages. Iwamura, who says his knee is at full strength, has been a league-average fielder in the majors, according to UZR/150. Iwamura's numbers don't stand out from this year's free agent second basemen, but he may find himself competing for jobs with them in spite of his love for Tampa.

Odds & Ends: Rays, Phillies, Indians

A few more evening links….

  • Bill Chastain of MLB.com writes that the arrival of Reid Brignac in Tampa Bay could lead to the Rays buying out Akinori Iwamura's option this offseason. The $4.25MM 2010 option can be bought out for $250k. Chastain suggests that the emergence of Ben Zobrist and the recent strong play of Brignac could make Iwamura expendable.
  • Todd Zolecki of MLB.com passes on news of Phillies' minor league players of the year Kyle Drabek and Michael Taylor being honored before Tuesday's game against Washington. Given the Phillies' talent and depth on the major league level, Zolecki predicts that both prospects will start 2010 at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Like Ryan Howard before him, Taylor has his path to the major league roster blocked by veterans with bigger contracts. Howard eventually took advantage of a Jim Thome injury and excelled in Philadelphia. It will be interesting to see if Taylor and Drabek, who were so coveted at this year's trade deadline, will earn similar opportunities in 2010.
  • Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer blogs about a few former Phillies prospects, expressing some concern about the Indians' haul in the trade that sent Cliff Lee to Philadelphia.

Baseball Blogs Weigh In: Papelbon, Jeter, Jurrjens, Braves, Nats

On this date 11 years ago, the Dodgers hired Kevin Malone to be their General Manager, replacing Tommy Lasorda. Three months later, the "new sheriff in town" signed Kevin Brown to a 7-year/$105MM contract, making Brown the first $100MM player in baseball history. The deal would cover Brown's age 34-40 seasons. Malone also avoided salary arbitration with Carlos Perez that off-season, giving him a 3-year/$15.5MM deal. Perez would spend the final year of the deal in Triple-A and never signed another big league contract. As most teams start looking to the off-season, let's take a look at what is being written in the Blogosphere…

  • Jorge Says No! revisits the worst contract extensions from the past off-season.
  • Fire Brand of the American League takes a look at what it would mean to the Red Sox if they traded Jonathan Papelbon.
  • River Ave. Blues takes a look at what it will take to re-sign Derek Jeter.
  • MLB Notebook can see Jason Bay signing with the Mariners this off-season, but suggests it is not a good fit.
  • Talking Chop argues that trading Jair Jurrjens this off-season would be more beneficial for the Braves than trading Javier Vazquez or Tim Hudson.
  • Capitol Ave. Club previews the Braves' free agent class.
  • DC Sports Plus projects the Nationals' roster for next season, including the addition of Aki Iwamura.

Cork Gaines writes for RaysIndex.com. If you have a suggestion for this feature, Cork can be reached here, and followed on Twitter here.

Rosenthal On Strasburg, Arroyo, Zobrist

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports says most believe the Nationals will sign Stephen Strasburg to a record deal of about $15-18MM this summer. Here are the details:  

  • Rosenthal describes doomsday scenarios for the Nationals and Strasburg to show that the two sides need to come to an agreement. 
  • The Reds can't even consider dealing Bronson Arroyo until Edinson Volquez returns. If Homer Bailey comes up and pitches well, it would be easier for the Reds to part with a starter.
  • If Akinori Iwamura can return this year, Ben Zobrist may become a super utilityman again. Rosenthal wonders if the AL OPS leader is more valuable when he plays multiple positions.
  • The Brewers, who would like to add pitching, could talk with the Braves, who have had interest in Corey Hart in the past.  
  • Nobody's interested in Jeff Francoeur, but the Braves have enviable pitching depth that would entice the Brewers.

Rays To Stay In-House At Second Base

Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times reports that the Rays will replace Akinori Iwamura's production from within the organization. Rays executive VP Andrew Friedman said the club will rely on Ben Zobrist, Willy Aybar and Reid Brignac to fill the void created by Iwamura's injury. Even with Jason Bartlett injured, the Rays aren't expected to add anyone, in part because they cannot add payroll. It would have been a surprise to see the Rays give something up for a middle infielder when they're getting production from the players they already have.

Plus, as ESPN.com's Buster Olney points out, the Rays need pitching help more than anything else.

Odds & Ends: Draft, Iwamura, Mets

Some links to tide you over this Memorial Day Eve:

  • John Sickels at Minor League Ball lists last year's starters who posted a Win Share over 10 alongside their draft origins. Last week, Future Redbirds advised against risking a first round pick on high school pitchers.
  • MLB.com has a fan Q&A up with Pirates GM Neal Huntington, who believes this year's draft is deep in pitching but thin on quality college position players.
  • Akinori Iwamura will probably hit the DL after he suffered a nasty collision in today's game and was carted off the field. Joe Maddon will have a look at internal options to fill in for now.
  • With the Mets hurting badly, Ken Davidoff at Newsday acknowledges GM Omar Minaya has his work cut out for him. With Jose Reyes' lingering tendinitis in his right knee and his injured backups, Davidoff thinks Minaya should get an appraisal on Bobby Crosby. Davidoff also thinks the Mets should "aggressively" go after the rehabbing Ben Sheets and at least discuss Erik Bedard with the M's, despite the Mets' top prospects sitting at lower levels.

Devil Rays Sign Akinori Iwamura

UPDATE: It’s official: three years for $7.7MM, club option at $4.25MM for 2010.

Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times tells us that third baseman Akinori Iwamura is "on the verge" of being signed to a three-year deal by the Devil Rays.  The deal will be something like three years, $7.5MM  guaranteed, I’ve heard.  Add in the $4.55MM posting fee if you like and they’re getting him for roughly $4MM annually.  Not bad at all.

The Devil Rays have a bit of a crowded infield – Iwamura, Greg Norton, Ty Wigginton, Jorge Cantu, Ben Zobrist, and B.J. Upton could all fight for PT.  Norton, Iwamura, and Upton can play the outfield as well, and some space could be freed if Cantu and/or Rocco Baldelli are traded.