tampabay.com

Deal expected today

Iwamura and team working on 3-year contract .

By MARC TOPKIN
Published December 15, 2006


ST. PETERSBURG - The Devil Rays late Thursday were on the verge of completing a three-year deal for Japanese infielder Akinori Iwamura and plan to make an announcement today.

"We've made further progress and we are extremely optimistic we will have a positive announcement well in advance of tonight's midnight deadline," Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman said.

The Rays and agent Alan Nero were working out final details and consulting with Iwamura, who, having passed a physical last week, is home in Japan. "We're close," Nero said around 11 p.m.

Iwamura is expected to be guaranteed nearly $9-million over the three years, with the Rays holding a fourth-year option for 2010. In exchange for what in the current market are reasonable terms, the Rays gave Iwamura the right to become a free agent at the end of the contract, rather than be bound to the Rays for the standard six years. The Rays also have to pay a $4.55-million posting fee to his former team, Yakult.

Iwamura, 27, was a five-time All-Star in eight seasons with the Swallows, winning five Gold Gloves at third base. The Rays are considering moving him to second, though that may be predicated on trading Jorge Cantu or shifting him to first.

Also:

- After a complaint from the Reds, MLB nullified Tuesday's transaction in which the Rays claimed Bobby Livingston off waivers from Seattle and sent him to the Phillies for around $50,000. The Rays essentially circumvented the process by selling their spot as first in line for waiver claims, though technically they broke the rule against discussing players on waivers.

They were not disciplined and lost only the cash. The Phillies, though, lost Livingston, who was awarded to the Reds, who were next in the claiming order.

"We were unaware (it was a violation); I think pretty much everybody in baseball is," Phillies assistant GM Mike Arbuckle told the Daily News. "We're not the first to do it; hopefully it will be enforced consistently."

- Reliever Al Reyes, 36, agreed to terms on a minor-league contract and is expected to challenge for a spot in the bullpen. Reyes, 4-2 with three saves and a 2.15 ERA for St. Louis in 2005, spent 2006 recovering from Tommy John elbow surgery.

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8801.