Minnesota and Tampa Bay Working on Iwamura Swap?

Jeremiah Graves@cheapseatchronAnalyst INovember 3, 2009

The Minnesota Twins may be on the verge of completing a major deal to improve the infield for 2010 and beyond.


Mark Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times is reporting that the Rays are close to dealing second baseman Akinori Iwamura to an undisclosed team.


Recent speculation has the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers as the two front-runners to acquire Iwamura’s services, but Topkin’s source has stated that it is a different, more “unexpected team” that has emerged for the services of Iwamura.


It is quite possible that the Twins are that “unexpected team” that has entered the market for Iwamura’s services.


Earlier this offseason I pegged Iwamura, 30, as a potential candidate to help plug holes for the Twins at either second or third base in 2010 as Tampa Bay holds a $4.25 million option (or $250,000 buyout) on Iwamura for next season.


With the emergence of Ben Zobrist and the recent acquisition of top prospect Sean Rodriguez, Iwamura—and his hefty salary—are no longer needed in Tampa Bay.


A torn ACL in his left knee cost Iwamura three months in 2009.  It was initially believed that the injury was season-ending, but a speedy recovery allowed him to come back and join the Rays for the final month.


Many question how the injury will affect Iwamura’s game, as much of his game is based on speed.  His defensive range will come into question, but beyond that, twelve percent of his career hits have been of the infield variety.


Knee injury or not, Iwamura still has a keen eye at the plate as evidenced by his career .281/.354/.393 slash line.  His plate discipline and modest power would mesh well with Minnesota’s current lineup, and he could serve as either a solid number two hitter or a bonus at the bottom of the order.


In addition to his offensive prowess, Iwamura is also noted for his solid defense at both second and third base, two positions that the Twins figure to address this offseason.


Trading for Iwamura would allow the Twins to give prospects Danny Valencia and Luke Hughes more time to develop while he starts at third base, and he could then shift to second base later in the season if/when one of the two is ready to take the reins at the hot-corner.


Tampa Bay has until one day after the World Series to make a decision on Iwamura's option, so a trade could happen quickly.


Adding to speculation that the Twins may be the “unexpected team” in the mix is news that third baseman Brian Buscher was outrighted to Triple-A Rochester today.  The move allows Buscher, 28, to become a Minor League free agent after the World Series.