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Iwamura to Pirates, Teahen to White Sox

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And so it begins.

While the New York Yankees haven’t even had enough time to catch their breath from their World Series victory, the 29 other teams are already in rebuilding mode, hoping for a different outcome in 2010.

In the first week of the Hot Stove, Akinori Iwamura, a 2006 Japanese import, was dealt to the Pittsburgh Pirates for righty Jesse Chavez. In a deal which should be concluded today, the Chicago White Sox will own Mark Teahen. In exchange, the Royals will acquire second baseman Chris Getz and third baseman Josh Fields.

Neither deal should incite too much excitement, but the lone Bucco’s fan should be happy that the Delwyn Young experiment is over.

In parts of three seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays, Iwamura was a top of the lineup run producer, scoring an average of 87 runs a season (not including his injury shortened 2009 campaign). He possesses good plate discipline and should bat high in the order, most likely in the second spot. He has above average speed, but has yet to develop sound base stealing instincts, notching just a 51 percent success rate.

Iwamura will be an upgrade over Young at second base, but is far from an above-average fielder.

The Rays save $550,000 by dealing Iwamura before having to buyout his contract and get righty Jesse Chavez in return.

Chavez is a 26-year-old flamethrower who profiles as a middle reliever to start the season. Scouts love his stuff–a fastball that sits at 94-95 miles per hour, a plus-change, and average slider–but are weary of his tendency to give up the longball. Because of his brutal changeup, he should be particularly valuable against left-handed hitters. I wouldn’t be surprised if he develops under the Rays’ pitching staff.

Akinori Iwamura to Pirates.

Jesse Chavez to Rays.

The second trade of the week was completed by American League Central rivals the Chicago White Sox and Kansas City Royals.

Upon first inspection it looks like Royal’s General Manager Dayton Moore pulled a fast one on White Sox GM Kenny Williams. In the end, however, this trade should end up a wash for both clubs, with Kansas City getting a miniscule edge for salary reasons.

The Royals finally gave up on 28-year-old Mark Teahen, a perennial under-performer with both the bat and glove, and received two serviceable, roster-bolstering additions in third baseman Josh Fields and second baseman Chris Getz.

While Fields has great power, he hit just .222 last season and looked completely lost at the plate. He’s a shadow of the Rookie of the Year candidate we witnessed in 2007, but could be a good reclamation project. With Alex Gordon blocking third base and the corner outfield spots looking like logjams, there’s no telling where Fields will play.

At this point in his career, Fields is comparable Mark Teahen without the mist of arbitration looming. He will be paid the league minimum while Teahen is slated to command around $5 million in arbitration this year.

In Getz, the Royals receive a traditional slap-and-run second baseman with good base stealing abilities. Last year, he swiped 25 of 27 bags while hitting .261.

The trade most likely signifies the end of Jermaine Dye’s tenure in Chicago and Yuniesky Betancourt’s time in Kansas City.

While Teahen isn’t a good fielder by any measure, he’s better than an aging and sluggish Dye. Dye has a $12 million option with a $1 million buyout for 2010, but it’s been long expected that it will not be picked up this offseason. Teahen is the logical, and cheap, replacement.

Betancourt is the worst defensive shortstop in the history of the game. His UZR of negative-20.5 put him in a horrible league of his own and should be the sole reason Kansas City should drop him without thinking twice. Eat salary, admit that the 2009 trade for him was dumb, and move on with it.

Getz isn’t Ozzie Smith. And Alberto Callaspo (the Royal’s current 2B) isn’t either. But moving either to shortstop makes an incredible amount of sense for the Royals.

Word around town is that Dayton Moore doesn’t pay attention to statistics UZR. Hopefully someone kicks him in the head.

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