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— A Timely Look at Transactions as They Happen

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Devil Rays - Signed Iwamura

Tampa Bay Devil Rays - Signed 3B Akinori Iwamura to a 3-year contract.

Obviously not as splashy as Matsuzake, but this is a strong signing at $7.7 million guaranteed with an option for 2010.  This brings the total outlay for Iwamura to something over $11.5 million over 3 years when you included the posting fees, which makes it a pretty nice bargain for the Devil Rays.  The team hasn’t stated where he’ll play - Iwamura was mostly a 3B in Japan but has said that he would move to 2B in the majors if the need arose.  Thanks to some disappointing defensive development (and an overall 2006 disappointment), Jorge Cantu’s likely on the trading block now.

2007 ZiPS Projection - Akinori Iwamura
          AB   R   H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB   BA   OBP   SLG
Projection   514 46 148 21 2 20 61 49 144   5 .288 .350 .453


Dan Szymborski Posted: December 17, 2006 at 12:17 AM | 14 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Astro-Bonilla Posted: December 17, 2006 at 05:19 AM (#2263611)
This is an amazing deal if the DRAYs are putting him at 2nd. Compare his projection to the projections of 2b that got similar contracts such as Derosa and Kennedy.

Iwamura has an excellent defensive rep at 3rd so the deal is quite good even if he is playing 3rd; I haven't heard any complaints about his defense at 2nd on the occasions that he has played 2b.
   2. S. Ransom Posted: December 17, 2006 at 05:36 AM (#2263620)
ESPN's got Iwamura already penciled in as starter at 2B on the D-Rays depth chart, with Cantu at 1st - a nice spot for him if he reverts to form with the bat. If Zobrist gets anywhere near his minor league OBP (.434 career, with 60 more walks than Ks in just 3 years), then the TB offense could really surpise. It's the pitching, as usual, that will torpedo their season. Kazmir is good enough (he'd be an ace if he pitched more than his 144 innings last year), with Shields a good #3 or #4. That's about all they got. Too bad they need five guys in the rotation.
   3. DCW3 Posted: December 17, 2006 at 08:02 AM (#2263662)
Cantu at 1st - a nice spot for him if he reverts to form with the bat.

I don't know--even if Cantu hits like he did in 2005, he'd still be a below-average first baseman. Of course, I guess if you're the Devil Rays, you can't complain too much about "below-average."
   4. S. Ransom Posted: December 17, 2006 at 08:24 AM (#2263665)
Especially at first base - Ah, for the old days of Fred McGriff manning the corner in bug-eye green.
   5. Jim Wisinski Posted: December 17, 2006 at 04:41 PM (#2263761)
As the roster stands at the moment Cantu would go into the 1B/DH mix along with Gomes and Dukes and also get time as the backup 2B. A trade would be a better solution though if they can get decent value in return, it's selling low but I don't see him as having a future with the Rays anyway.

As for the pitching, JP Howell is likely to make the rotation as well. He finally regained his arm strength in his last start of the season, throwing 87-88 again, and looks to be a decent starter if he maintains that. Jason Hammel finished strong at Durham but only had flashes of success in the majors so he will probably go back down to start the season. Niemann's health is the question as always but if there's nothing wrong with him at the time he may break camp with the team. Mitch Talbot and Andy Sonnanstine will start the year in Durham but both aren't far from contributing (Talbot especially, I expect Sonnanstine to need adjustment time at AAA like he did at AA in 2006). Jae Seo seems to be guaranteed a rotation spot, which I don't agree with, but that's not a big deal and his potential usefulness isn't 100% toast yet.

There's a lot of depth to work from with the starting pitching right now, it's a matter of seeing who continues to have success (and stay healthy) and figuring out from there who gives them the best five in the rotation.
   6. peter21 Posted: December 18, 2006 at 06:20 PM (#2264363)
Kazmir has a very good chance to be a legitimate ace. The guy struck out 163 in 144 innings last season, while reducing his walk-rate for the third consecutive year, down to 3.24 walks per nine (and he's just 22). The Rays (rightly) shut him down at the mere SUGGESTION of any arm problems---they had nothing to gain by letting him pitch, and everything to lose.

While the staff is certainly not in *good* shape, things are not as bad as many people might realize. Niemann's health is always a concern too, but he managed to put up very stellar numbers at AA. Howell, Seo, Hammel, and Shields are all credible #4/5 starters. Obviously an ace and four 4/5s does not a good rotation make, but the pieces are coming into place.

Additionally, as was mentioned above, Sonnanstine and Talbot aren't far from contributing, and there are many other quality arms in the low minors.

I would be shocked if Rocco Baldelli isn't dealt for at least two pitchers, one of whom is ML-ready and a viable #3 starter. This team is not as far away from 75-85 wins as some might think.
   7. faketeams Posted: December 18, 2006 at 07:20 PM (#2264410)
Iwamura will be a very good player at 2B based on those numbers. I wonder about the strikeouts though. Does ZIPS typically project such a nice AVG with so many strikouts and so few BBs?

Fake Teams
   8. Jose Canusee Posted: December 19, 2006 at 07:18 PM (#2265179)
Since Iguchi and KazMat (too bad he wasn't named Hazuo) being the only recent NPB>MLB infielders with significant playing time, I distrust the reports since KM was considered a good SS there by reports and not even an above average 2b here.
   9. Bad Doctor Posted: December 20, 2006 at 09:30 PM (#2265961)
I wonder about the strikeouts though. Does ZIPS typically project such a nice AVG with so many strikouts and so few BBs?

That's a good point ... taking out HRs and BB, that comes out as a .366 BABIP. I'd also say it's odd to see a player with HRs as half of his XBH except for real sluggers like Mark McGwire and Ryan Howard. Perhaps something's lost in translation.
   10. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: December 20, 2006 at 09:43 PM (#2265975)
As the roster stands at the moment Cantu would go into the 1B/DH mix along with Gomes and Dukes and also get time as the backup 2B.

Hee Sop Choic could be in that mix as well.
   11. Der Komminsk-sar Posted: December 21, 2006 at 09:30 PM (#2266700)
On-topic: here's his splits.
Off-topic: Reds get Conine for Javon Moran and Brad Key, DFA Brendan Harris.
   12. Der Komminsk-sar Posted: December 21, 2006 at 09:38 PM (#2266707)
That may have been hard to read/navigate.
vL: 63-178 .354, 11 hr, 26 rbi, 15 w, 42 k
vR: 107-368 .291, 21 hr, 51 rbi, 55 w, 86 k

I find the projection a little optimistic (in part because he strikes out so much), but not hugely so: .270/.335/.425, make some of the homers into doubles.
   13. Kyle S Posted: December 22, 2006 at 02:59 PM (#2267111)
i had him as .288/.343/.438 in a neutral park and league (but with a really high BABIP that I should have regressed). i'd be surprised if he matches dan's projection, but anything's possible.

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