Devil Rays obtain negotiating rights to Iwamura

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Devil Rays won the negotiating rights to Japanese star third baseman Akinori Iwamura on Wednesday, submitting a winning bid of about $4.5 million for the power hitter.

On Tuesday, the Boston Red Sox paid $51.1 million for the rights to talk to Japanese star pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka.

The Devil Rays have 30 days to finalize a contract with Iwamura. If he is not signed by Dec. 15, Tampa Bay gets its money back and Iwamura returns to play in Japan.

Iwamura, 27, was a five-time All-Star in eight seasons with the Yakult Swallows. A left-handed hitter, he batted .311 with 32 homers and 77 RBI in 145 games last season.

Iwamura was Japan's starting third baseball in the World Baseball Classic last spring. He was a six-time Gold Glove winner.

Iwamura hit 188 homers with 570 RBI in eight seasons with Yakult. He hit at least 30 home runs in each of the past three years and set a Swallows record for most homers by a Japanese native with 44 in 2004.