The Tampa Tribune is reporting that the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Japanese all-star third baseman Akinori Iwamura have agreed in principal on a contract. The deal would be for $7.25 million over three years with a team option in the fourth year. No word on how much the option would be for.
This signing means that the Rays will have to make at least one trade this off-season or be forced to send B. J. Upton back down to the minors. Upton’s move to third base now appears to be over. Iwamura could potentially play second base or the outfield, but he is a 5-time gold glove third baseman and is known to have a very strong accurate arm. His arm is so strong that he has earned the nickname Top Gun back in Japan. Of course we are currently in search of a new nickname, unless of course he is seen on Clearwater Beach playing homoerotic beach volleyball with Tom Cruise.
Iwamura’s signing leaves Upton without a regular position. It has long been speculated that his best position would be center field, but that is currently manned by Rocco Baldelli who is signed to a long-term deal. Rumors abound of a possible deal involving Rocco, but as yet nothing appears to be imminent. Upton could also be traded if the Rays are not happy with any of the offers for Baldelli. It has been reported that the Rays have already turned down two offers from the Marlins, including Scott Olsen for Rocco and Ricky Nolasco for Upton.
Jorge Cantu is another player that could be moved, either to first base, which is currently without a named starter, or to another team. Moving Cantu could open up second base for either Iwamura or Upton, but is not likely. The Rays would probably rather fill second base with a proven veteran like Marcus Giles, who was non-tendered by the Braves. Still, that appears to be a long-shot as the Padres have already offered Giles a multi-year deal.
No matter which way the Rays and manager Joe Maddon decide to turn, one thing is for certain, Iwamura’s signing means that the music has started and not everybody will find a chair when Spring Training ends.