Swing and A Miss: Minnesota Twins Lose Out on Tampa Bay Rays' Akinori Iwamura
Well, there goes one article from the offseason que.
The Rays, finding themselves with a surfeit of infielders, seem to be on the verge of dealing second baseman Akinori Iwamura and another player to the Pirates for reliever Jesse Chavez. However, for much of the day, it looked like the Twins might have achieved an offseason before the season even officially ended.
Iwamura got off to a solid start, hitting .310/.377/.406 before tearing his ACL in May. One might think that such a line might earn him a shot at producing that well over a whole season, and had the Rays infield not performed so well without him, it might have.
Even missing as much time as he did, Iwamura was the Rays' sixth most productive offensive player, and he can play multiple infield positions, so how did he find himself as the Rays most expendable piece?
The simple answer is that of the five players above him in terms of VORP, three (Evan Longoria, Jason Bartlett, and Ben Zobrist) play the positions that Iwamura could play, and of those, Iwamura was the most expensive.
Did the Twins really miss the boat here?
Iwamura was certainly a player on my radar as one who could be a decent investment for the Twins if they decided to improve second base. However, his greatest asset was his comparatively lower price.
A league average defender by both UZR and FRAA, Iwamura was worth about two wins over the course of each of his first two full seasons. By comparison, Carlos Gomez was worth about two wins, though that was due almost exclusively to his being a superlative defender. Michael Cuddyer was worth a bit more, around 2.5 wins, but is also in the neighborhood.
Iwamura would have been a decent player to acquire, but I don't see him being a big difference maker for this team. Even the price may not have been as good as advertised. Sure, a midlevel reliever isn't much to give up in a trade, but Iwamura will make $4.25 next season, slightly more than Jason Kubel or Nick Punto will make. Rather than give up someone like Jose Mijares (likely who the Rays would have asked for) and then pay a reasonably large salary, the Twins are better off doing one or the other.
There are impact players available via trade and a fair number of midlevel talents that will be free agents, many of whom will be worth as much to the Twins as Iwamura would have been.
While missing out on Akinori Iwamura might be disappointing, it's far from a killer miss for the Twins. All that matters now is whom they actually acquire.
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