Friday, June 18, 2010

The Curious Case of Aki Iwamura

Will the Pirates force Aki Iwamura to go play for AAA Indianapolis?

On Tuesday, June 15, in tandem with the promotion of third baseman
Pedro Alvarez, the Pirates announced that Iwamura had been DFA'd ("designated for assignment").

From that point, the team had 10 days to trade or release Iwamura -- or send him to Indianapolis, where they will continue to pay him the rest of his $4.85 million salary.

Let's examine the options:

  • Trade Iwamura -- This appears unlikely. Who would want him? Even if the Pirates paid nearly all of Iwamura's salary, who would trade for him? In 54 games this season, the 30-something Iwamura (apparently still recovering from knee surgery last year) displayed no range, played lousy defense and batted .182. The Pirates will have difficulty finding a taker for him and, even if they do, would presumably pay most of the $2.5 million remaining on his salary.
  • Every other team's general manager knows all this, so the Pirates have no leverage. Presumably, the Pirates would be happy to unload Iwamura with virtually no return, just to save face. Who needs him, though? Anybody looking for infield depth would go with a healthy young AAA prospect who at least can play some defense and run the bases.
  • Release Iwamura -- This would be embarrassing, but the entire Iwamura saga is embarrassing, so it's only a matter of finally closing this chapter. Releasing Iwamura would require Neal Huntington to publicly admit that he made a major mistake in trading for him -- and wasted nearly $5 million of owner Bob Nutting's money.
  • Everybody knows this already, anyway, so just be done with it. With Huntington's extension just announced, perhaps Huntington has the so-called "job security" to man up and do this. If not, they apparently have only one other option ...
  • Iwamura to AAA -- This would be pointless for the Pirates, another PR distraction, a waste of time for all parties, and humiliating for Iwamura. It might happen, though, but only if the Pirates take the low road and use the demotion as a way of trying to get Iwamura to quit, in which they would no longer be responsible for paying the rest of his salary this season. Yeah, Iwamura just might rather go home to Japan, and who could blame him? ... except that he would forfeit all that money. This would make for a sticky situation for both parties, but it's not out of the question.
  • The Post-Gazette reports Huntington said that if other options fail, he would prefer to option Iwamura to Indianapolis. From a baseball standpoint, why? What's the point? To punish Iwamura? Let him work on his chain-smoking? He's not coming back to Pittsburgh, not with Neil Walker entrenched at second base and Alvarez at third.
  • Sell Iwamura's Rights to a Team in Japan -- The Post-Gazette cites "a team source" as saying it's unlikely the Pirates will sell his rights to a team in Japan. Whether Iwamura longs to return to Japan, only he can say -- and he doesn't speak English.
Just let him go already. The entire Aki Iwamura saga was a mistake. Walk away from it.

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