Twins Win Right to Negotiate with Tsuyoshi Nishioka

26 Nov

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net -

On Thanksgiving Day, we found out that the Chiba Lotte team would hold a press conference to announce whether they would accept the high bid from MLB for the services of middle infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka. Later last evening, we heard that they were accepting the bid, but that Major League Baseball would be announcing the ‘winner’ today. Well, just minutes ago, we learned that the Minnesota Twins won the right to negotiate with the speedy Japanese infielder thanks to a bid estimated to be $5.3 million. The Twins now have 30 days to negotiate a contract with the player and his representatives. If they reach an agreement, Chiba Lotte will receive $5.3 million from the Twins. If not, the Twins will get the money back.

But since it is much more fun to think positively, let’s for a minute assume that the Twins and Nishioka are able to come to terms. What does it mean? Based on the estimated posting fee, and previous rumors, it is believed that the contract of the 26 year old will be in the neighborhood of $2-3 million for a few years. There was an assumption that if the Twins were awarded Nishioka that JJ Hardy would be gone, but if the actual value of his contract will be just a few million, and Hardy could agree to a deal worth something around $6 million, it is possible that the Twins can keep the still-young, excellent defensive shortstop and keep Alexi Casilla in a utility role. That is important if reports from some indicate the Nishioka is more questionable as a shortstop than as a second baseman. That said, the Twins would be wise to see what the market is for Hardy. It would make no sense to non-tender him since he would instantly become the top shortstop on the market. They should be able to accumulate a few quality prospects for Hardy.

How does an infield of Valencia, Hardy, Nishioka and Morneau sound? I like it!

What do we know about Nishioka? He led the Japanese League in batting average by hitting .346. He was on base over 42% of the time. He has a little bit of power, but the switch-hitter profiles perfectly as a #2 hitter. Twins fans need to caution themselves, however. Nishioka is not Ichiro. He’s not Hideki Matsui in terms of power. But he can do all the things you want a player to do? I think so. I mean, he has shown an ability to hit for average, get on base, have good pop in his bat for a middle infielder, play good defense, has speed. The question now is how does that translate to the Major Leagues. And frankly, no one knows. No one can answer that with 100% certainty. He is just 26. Most players that come over from Japan are nearly 30, so he should be given a little time.

As I mentioned when we heard that the Twins placed a bid on Iwakuma earlier this month, having a presence in Japan is a big deal. If the Twins can negotiate with Nishioka and bring him in, it makes the Twins a name in Japan, and among young players in Japan and all around Asia. Think about how many Twins jerseys with Nishioka or Mauer on the back will be found in Japan? Think about the scouts who have been toiling in Asia, trying to find the diamonds in the rough, who can now go to top level Asian talent and say, “Hi, I represent the Minnesota Twins. Do you have a minute?”

What does it mean for other Twins players? Again, it certainly makes any decisions on JJ Hardy difficult, although there is still no way that non-tendering him makes any sense. Alexi Casilla is still waiting in the wings, wondering if he will be a starting shortstop or a utility infielder again. What about Trevor Plouffe and Luke Hughes? Both were thought to be potentially competing with Casilla for a job, now both likely are competing for a backup infield spot and right-handed bat off the bench. What about someone like Steve Singleton, who has the pop to play but has been left off the 40 man roster each of the last two years? I can only hope, for him, that he is taken by a team in the Rule 5 draft and given a real opportunity for a big league job.

The Twins had just 38 players on their 40 man roster after their decisions last week. If they can get Nishioka signed before the Winter Meetings (starting Dec. 3), they will be at 39 and still have room to work.

I do have to say this for the Twins front office. They have been true to their word. When the team played in Metrodome and had basically no revenues, they made a promise to fans that if there was a new stadium, the payroll would increase with the revenues. Since the announcement of the new stadium, the Twins have gone above and beyond what was previously deemed possible. They locked up Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan to long-term deals. They kept Joe Mauer by extending his contract by eight years and $184 million. They went well over slot to sign Kyle Gibson. They gave $3.15 million to Miguel Sano. And now, they have bid an estimated $5.3 million just to negotiate with a very talented middle infielder from Japan. These are no longer your, ummm… older brother’s Twins!! And how much fun is this?!

But today was only the start. As I said earlier, the Twins and Nishioka’s representatives now have 30 days to work out an agreement. If they are unable to, then this excitement was all of nothing.

So what do you think? Many Twins fans who don’t pay as much attention will wonder about this player they have never heard of. Many of you will be incredibly excited. Where do you stand on this? What are the next steps for the Twins?  Please feel free to e-mail me or leave your comments here.

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17 Responses to “Twins Win Right to Negotiate with Tsuyoshi Nishioka”

  1. BB-STC November 26, 2010 at 1:06 pm #

    Any idea what number would be on the back of that Nishioka jersey?

  2. BB-STC November 26, 2010 at 1:09 pm #

    Seth, Over at TwinkieTown they say that Estarlin De Los Santos was outrighted to Rochester yesterday and that Eric Hacker still is not showing up on the 40 man roster. That would leave it at 36 of 40. Have you head any further word on this?

  3. hoff November 26, 2010 at 1:14 pm #

    True about the organization. They’ve kept their word to spend new revenue on the team. Think about 3 years ago, did you think this team would be placing a bid to have the chance to sign a stud Japanese middle infielder in his prime. This is awesome that the team is in this position. Go Twins

  4. roger November 26, 2010 at 1:28 pm #

    Seth, I am just plain excited about this, especially if they can sign him to a three year deal at $8-10mm.

    The Twins did announce that De Los Santos was outrighted to Rochester on Wednesday. I don’t know if he has gone thru or still has to go thru the waiver process. They also still don’t show Hacker on their 40-man roster, which today stands at 36. Maybe Hacker isn’t going on the roster or maybe there is a mistake/delay. Anyway, that is where it is at today which would give them four spots, one each for the three free agents they offerred arbitration to and a spot for Yoshi!

  5. JimCrikket November 26, 2010 at 4:09 pm #

    A glance at Nishioka’s own blog will tell you what number he wore with Chiba Lotte, but I’m pretty sure he’ll have to pick a new number. http://ameblo.jp/speedstar-tsuyoshi7/entry-10599420490.html

    I’m excited that the Twins are doing more than just shopping in the Free Agent bargain bins, but I’m going to hold off on getting excited about Nishioka himself until I see him on the field. He’s young and he had a few decent seasons in Japan (which is like having a few decent seasons in AAA) and then had ONE terrific year in 2010, when an amazing number of his batted balls turned in to hits. That’s a tough feat to duplicate, especially when you’re stepping up to MLB.

    And we’re talking about him possibly replacing a SS that would, if allowed to walk, immediately become the most sought-after Major League middle infielder on the market?

    I know Gardy wants some more speed in the line up, but excuse me if I’m not ready to make the Hardy/Noshioka switch quite yet.

  6. Marv November 26, 2010 at 4:29 pm #

    Like the signing of Nishioka, but letting Hardy walk would be a mistake. After all, some old guy is asking the Yankees for $25 million/year to play a far inferior SS to what Hardy can play.
    What’s the deal with Estarlin De Los Santos?
    Is he now subject to Rule 5 draft? I cannot see losing him. No one wants him to use up a major league roster spot for a year. Not at his age. He isn’t subject to the waiver wire, is he? Can someone explain the downside of sending him to Rochester?
    Thank you

  7. bcn twins fan November 26, 2010 at 5:47 pm #

    they took de los santos off the 40 man. so there are 3 spots on the 40 man. nishioka, nick punto, and jim thome. with hardy traded for a much needed, hopefully cheap, bullpen arm.thats about another 12 million to the already 5 million they are over last years payroll of 97 million, according to cotts and my math that woulod put the twins at 114 million with a full roster

  8. TT November 26, 2010 at 6:40 pm #

    Any player on the roster needs to clear waivers when removed. Its doubtful any team would use the rule 5 draft to take someone they could have grabbed on waivers with no strings attached.

    Nishioka looks like a perfect fit for the Twins. He’s only 26 and will fit into the number two spot. Assuming he is a major league player. If the Twins think he is, that is good enough for me. I doubt they would be putting out this much money if they really thought it was much of a gamble.

    I suspect that Hardy can be traded, someone will be willing to pay him his arbitration salary. But I don’t know if that is a good idea. I am not a big Hardy fan, but he is really the only proven major league player in the infield. Even if you are 80% sure of each of the young players, Casilla, Nishioka and Valencia, its only 50-50 that all three will make it.

  9. O.H. LEE November 26, 2010 at 9:03 pm #

    What happens if Hudson accepts arbitration?

    • scot November 27, 2010 at 1:04 am #

      The word is that the Twins and Hudson have a understanding that he will not accept arby.

  10. scot November 27, 2010 at 1:07 am #

    I agree Hardy needs to stay regardless. Casilla would be my backup IF with Punto and Tolbert gone.

  11. DB November 27, 2010 at 9:15 am #

    The hardest part is that it’s tough to make any plans around Hardy given his health issues last year. When healthy he was impressive, but when injured you could see it in his play. I would love to see a healthy JJ at short all year, but if the right offer comes along, you have to consider it.

  12. DH in Philly November 27, 2010 at 11:38 am #

    Nishioka gives the Thins flexiblity in the near term. They can (will) tender Hardy. Then they can trade him if they get an offer that blows them away (since so many teams are looking for SS). If not, they have him for the next year. This is a great position for the Front Office to be in.

  13. mike wants wins November 28, 2010 at 10:18 am #

    1. I’ve already admitted I was wrong about them not bidding high.

    2. He’s had one great year, but isn’t it true that he was just average before last year?

    3. This better not cost them Hardy, he’s 100x the player Casilla is. And, there is no evidence this guy is even as good as hardy (when you consider slugging percentage and defense). I’d much prefer this guy at 2B, Hardy at SS, and Casilla and Hughes on the bench.

    4. This obsession with speed is odd. They scored a lot of runs the last couple of years without speed, more runs than they did when there were fast.

  14. DH in Philly November 28, 2010 at 12:57 pm #

    I think he hit .300 in both 2007 and 2008, had an off year in 2009. Hardky what I would call average.

    • mike wants wins November 28, 2010 at 6:29 pm #

      I thought I read where he was a career 280 hitter, but I may have read that wrong or remembered it wrong.

      • mike wants wins November 29, 2010 at 11:13 am #

        Just checked, and I was off on his stats. Sorry about that.

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