|The Pirates and Rays kicked off the 2009 offseason trading period with a minor exchange. Tampa Bay sent veteran Japanese import Akinori Iwamura, the second baseman for the franchise’s ’08 pennant winner, to Pittsburgh for righthanded reliever Jesse Chavez, who made a club-leading 73 appearances in ’09, his first full season in the big leagues.
Pittsburgh may be just a stopover for Iwamura on his way to another organization in need of a veteran who can play second or third base and bat at the top of the order.
|Jesse Chavez, rhp
Born: Aug. 21, 1983 in Victorville, Calif.
Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 170. Bats: R. Throws: R.
School: Riverside (Calif.) CC.
Career Transactions: Selected by Rangers in 42nd round of 2002 draft; signed May 17, 2003 … Traded by Rangers to Pirates for RHP Kip Wells, July 31, 2006.
Chavez is a legitimate three-pitch reliever who sits 93-95 mph with his fastball and works with a quality changeup and a hard, high-80s slider. He might be too homer-prone to serve as a closer, but his repertoire and ability to absorb innings ought to make him a go-to late-inning reliever in the Rays bullpen. Best of all, he’s two years away from arbitration and five from free agency. Chavez has been much tougher on lefthanded batters in his short big league career (.681 OPS versus .879 to righties), but look for that to even out with time. He was much tougher on righthanded batters in Triple-A.
The rubber-armed Chavez logged 168 innings in three years with Triple-A Indianapolis before he got his first extended test drive in Pittsburgh. With Indy, he compiled a 3.91 ERA over 110 appearances, logging 153 strikeouts (8.2 per nine innings), 48 walks (2.6) and 12 home runs allowed (0.6). Those appearances do not include the half-season he spent in Double-A in ’06, nor do they include three full stints in winter ball, including two trips to the Arizona Fall League and one to the Dominican League following the ’08 season.
|Akinori Iwamura, 2b
Age: 30. Remaining Commitment: 1 year, $4.85 million (with incentives).
Contract details courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts.