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Tampa Bay Rays trade Akinori Iwamura to Pirates for relief pitcher Jesse Chavez

NEW YORK — The Rays had already decided they weren't going to pick up second baseman Akinori Iwamura's $4.85 million option, so anything they could get for him was going to be a bonus.

Tuesday, that turned out to be reliever Jesse Chavez, 26, a right-hander who made a major-league rookie-high 73 appearances for the Pirates last season, going 1-4 with a 4.01 ERA. He has a live arm, Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman said, and a high upside.

"He's got some swing-and-miss stuff," Friedman said. "And now it's about trying to harness it and have it play that way at the major-league level."

The Rays wouldn't have gotten anything, and would have had to pay a $550,000 buyout, if they declined the option by the one-day-after-the-World-Series deadline, and Iwamura would have become a free agent.

But the Pirates, who have been scouting him since September, wanted him badly enough to offer Chavez, who has minor-league options left and is under the Rays control through 2014.

"It's tough to give up a guy like Jesse Chavez," Pirates GM Neal Huntington told Pittsburgh media. "But as we've talked about before, the bullpen is the most difficult to predict future performances."

Iwamura, 30, was a key player for the Rays for three seasons and made the most memorable play in club history, touching second for the final out in Game 7 of the 2008 ALCS. With Ben Zobrist, Sean Rodriguez and Reid Brignac available to play second and Evan Longoria entrenched at third, they no longer had use for him.

"It's tough to put into words what Aki's meant to this organization," Friedman said.

Iwamura said on a conference call he was "very excited for the new challenge" and "very appreciative."

Tampa Bay Rays trade Akinori Iwamura to Pirates for relief pitcher Jesse Chavez 11/03/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 4, 2009 7:51am]
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