The Pittsburgh Pirates have acquired Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Akinori Iwamura in exchange for reliever Jesse Chavez.
A career .281 hitter in the Major Leagues, the left-handed hitting Iwamura hit .290 (67-for-231) with 19 extra-base hits and 22 RBI in 69 games for the Rays in 2009. He missed close to three months of big-league action after suffering a partially torn ACL in a collision with Florida’s Chris Coghlan on May 24 (he underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee on June 22).
Pirates General Manager Neil Huntington announced Tuesday nght that the Pirates have exercised the club option ($4.85 million) on Iwamura for the 2010 season.
“Akinori Iwamura brings to the Pittsburgh Pirates solid attributes offensively, defensively, on the base paths and in the clubhouse,” said Huntington. “He is a good athlete with above average speed and is a tough out with a solid career on-base percentage.
Additionally, he played Gold Glove caliber third base for years in Japan and has made a smooth transition to second base. We are very pleased to add a player of his caliber to our lineup and to our organization.”
Iwamura, a six-time Gold Glove winner (2000-02, 2004-06) and five-time All-Star (2001-02, 2004-06) while playing in Japan, signed a three-year deal with Tampa Bay on December 15, 2006.
The 26-year-old Chavez spent his first full season in the Majors in 2009 and led the Pittsburgh pitching staff with 73 appearances. Chavez is a hard throwing righty that posted a 4.01 ERA in 67.3 innings this year as a rookie.
Iwamura now becomes the highest paid player on the team.