Iwamura a $12-million Ray
The Devil Rays on Friday made their first - and perhaps only - significant addition of the off-season, completing a deal with Japanese infielder Akinori Iwamura that cost them more than $12-million.
Iwamura agreed to a three-year contract for $7.45-million, and includes a 2010 team option for at least $4.25-million (it can go up to $5.25-million based on plate appearances) or a buyout of at least $250,000 (or up to $750,000) for a total guarantee of $7.7-million. Iwamura will have the opportunity to be a free agent at the end of the contract. With the $4.55-million posting fee the Rays have to pay to Iwamura's former Yakult team, their total commitment is $12.25-million.
Iwamura, 27, was a five-time All-Star in eight seasons with the Swallows, compiling a .300 average while hitting 188 homers and knocking in 570 runs. He had a sudden surge of power over the last three seasons, hitting 44 homers in 2004, 30 in 2005 and 32 last season, though he is not expected to hit for as much power against major-league pitching. He hit .311 last season - fifth best in the Central League.
"We are very pleased to add a player of Akinori's ability to our organization,'' Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman said. "Aki is a complete player who will make a significant impact on our club.''
The Rays aren't sure exactly how they will use Iwamura. He won five Gold Gloves at third base, but the Rays are considering moving him to second. That, though, could be predicated on trading Jorge Cantu or shifting him to first.