For months now, everyone has been talking about how second baseman Akinori Iwamura’s $4.85 million 2010 option might be too expensive for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays to pick up, especially with the explosive emergence of Ben Zobrist (your 2009 MLB leader in WAR). But all the speculation I’ve seen has focused on whether the Rays would pick up Iwamura’s option or let him walk.
Nobody mentioned the smarter move, which would be to simply trade Iwamura to a team that found his $4.85 million price tag acceptable. But of course the Rays and GM Andy Friedman were ahead of the curve on this one, and it’s clear that they have been thinking trade for several weeks now, and never even entertained the idea of letting it get to the stage of picking up the option or not.
Instead, they shipped Iwamura to the Pirates today for cost-controlled reliever Jesse Chavez. This move makes sense for both sides. The bullpen was an issue at several points last season, and the Rays were definitely in the market for an arm, so Chavez is a useful addition, especially when their only viable option with Iwamura was going to be to let him walk and get nothing. Meanwhile, the Pirates get a league-average to slightly above league average at a not-unreasonable price to serve as a one-year stopgap at second while they continue to rebuild.