On this date in 2006, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays signed Japanese 3B Akinori Iwamura to a three year, $7.7M deal with an option for a fourth year.
During his time in Japan, Iwamura was a member of the Yakult Swallows and over the years he accrued six Gold Gloves and five All-Star game nominations. He had hit at least 30 HR over the past three seasons leading up this posting and hit .300 over his eight seasons.
Iwamura would excel for the Devil Rays during the 2007 seasons, delighting fans with his acrobatic style at the hot corner and his quick, explosive offensive presence. In a year shortened by injuries, Iwamura accrued 3.1 fWAR and slashed /285/.359/.411 with 7 HR over 123 games.
In 2008, Iwamura moved to second base to accommodate top prospect, Evan Longoria’s ascension to the big leagues, and Iwamura did it flawlessly. Serving at the top of the lineup, Iwamura would help propel the Rays from worst to first and into the World Series for the first time in franchise history.
Unfortunately, Iwamura’s career would be severely altered during the 2009 season. In the middle of another solid year, a dirty slide cost him most of the season and when he returned, his numbers plummeted. Following the season, the Rays excercised their team option on Iwamura, but immediately traded him to the Pittsburgh Pirates for RHP Jesse Chavez.
Iwamura struggled mightily while the Pirates and was designated for assignment early in the season. He would be picked up by the Oakland Athletics shortly after, but his struggles continued eventually leading to his release.
Following the completion of the 2010 season, Iwamura would head back home to Japan and resumed his career there. Iwamura would join an independent circuit in Japan following the 2014 season where he filled a player/manager role. He would retire in April of 2017.