Tsuyoshi Nishioka Rumors

Quick Hits: Blue Jays, Cubs, Nishioka, Mariners

Four years ago today, the Cubs officially announced that they had signed Ryan Dempster to a four-year, $52MM contract. Dempster was worth 12.9 wins above replacement over the life of that contract, according to FanGraphs, who valued his production in those four years at $56.3MM. Now a free agent, Dempster will seek what could be the last major contract of his big league career, and interested suitors are hoping he can once again exceed his contract's value.

Here are tonight's links from around the league…

  • Jose Bautista tells Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca that prior to signing his five-year, $65MM extension, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos promised him that when the time was right, he'd add the pieces to make a big run. Bautista tells Davidi that he always believed in Anthopoulos, and now his faith has been rewarded: "We had a great club before this, but now we have an elite club."
  • Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago tweets that the Cubs are not currently in talks to trade away any of their young players.
  • Former Twins infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka has signed a two-year deal with the Hanshin Tigers, according to a Sponichi report. Nishioka's deal is worth 600 million yen. That translates to about $7.4MM, meaning he'll earn more money than he forfeited in asking for his release from Minnesota.
  • Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times looks at several Mariners issues in his latest blog post. Baker opines that Josh Hamilton has never been a realistic target for GM Jack Zduriencik and also explains why he feels Billy Butler is a realistic trade target despite the presence of Jesus Montero and John Jaso on the roster. Both Montero and Jaso saw significant time at DH in 2012.
  • Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio examines five potential trading partners the Diamondbacks could talk to about Justin Upton (ESPN Insider required). Bowden looks at players that would interest Arizona GM Kevin Towers on the Rangers, Rays, Tigers, Indians and Braves.

Twins Release Tsuyoshi Nishioka

The Twins announced that they have unconditionally released Tsuyoshi Nishioka at the infielder's request. Nishioka had been under contract for 2013, but he will relieve the Twins of the $3.25MM remaining on his contract. Nishioka thanked his fans and the Twins in a statement released by the team.

"I take full responsibility for my performance which was below my own expectations," Nishioka said. "At this time, I have made the decision that it is time to part ways. I have no regrets and know that only through struggle can a person grow stronger."

Nishioka signed a three-year, $9MM contract with the Twins before the 2011 season. The Twins are no longer responsible for his $3MM salary in 2013 or for the $250K buyout on his 2014 contract option.

Nishioka, 28, appeared in 68 games with the Twins last year but missed considerable time with a broken leg suffered early in the season. He has spent most of the 2012 season at Triple-A, where he posted a .258/.315/.324 batting line in 431 plate appearances.

It's rare for an MLB player to pass up guaranteed money. Royals starter Gil Meche walked away from $12MM before the 2011 season.

Twins Outright Blackburn, Nishioka

The Twins announced that they outrighted right-hander Nick Blackburn and infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka off of the 40-man roster. Blackburn has been outrighted to Triple-A Rochester and Nishioka, who had previously joined the Triple-A team, will remain in Rochester.

Blackburn, 30, has a 7.39 ERA with 3.8 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in 98 2/3 innings over the course of 19 starts this year. He's under contract for $5.5MM in 2013, the last season of the four-year, $14MM extension he signed following his respectable 2008-09 seasons. Nishioka, 28, has spent most of the 2012 season at Triple-A, where he has a .252/.311/.313 batting line in 380 plate appearances. He's under contract for $3MM in 2013. The Twins have 2014 options for both Blackburn and Nishioka.

Quick Hits: Padres, Nishioka, Giants, DeWitt

Here's a wrap-up of news from around baseball as we head into Tuesday….

Twins Notes: Payroll, Cuddyer, Kubel, Nishioka

MLB.com's Rhett Bollinger covered a few hot stove topics in his recent Twins mailbag piece, and here are some of the highlights….

  • GM Bill Smith "has indicated the club is going to try to sign at least one of" free agents Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel.  The latest Elias rankings show Cuddyer is a Type A free agent and Kubel is a Type B, so Cuddyer could net the Twins an extra draft pick if they let him walk.
  • There has been no talk of reducing the Twins' $113MM payroll from last season.  In his look at the team's arbitration-eligible players, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes speculated that Minnesota could have up to $30MM to spend this winter if it planned to stay at the $113MM figure.  That would be more than enough to sign both Kubel and Cuddyer if the team so desired.
  • That money could also be spent on a high-profile free agent, though Bollinger notes that isn't the Twins' style.  He believes that besides Kubel or Cuddyer, the club will focus on infield depth and rebuilding the bullpen.
  • Joe Nathan "has expressed a willingness to remain with the organization" and we heard last week that the Twins were also interested in keeping Nathan in the fold.  This would likely require signing Nathan to a new free agent contract, since the Twins will almost surely decline Nathan's $12MM option for 2012.
  • Minnesota will probably keep Tsuyoshi Nishioka and have him compete with Trevor Plouffe for the shortstop job next season.  Bollinger notes that Nishioka's experience at both short and second base would make him a good candidate as a utilityman.

Quick Hits: LaPorta, Pirates, Nishioka, Tigers

Saturday afternoon linkage..

  • Once the key component in the deat that sent CC Sabathia to the Brewers, Indians slugger Matt LaPorta is eager to regain his old form in 2011, writes Jordan Bastian of MLB.com.
  • The Pirates need to increase their revenue if they hope to bring their payroll to around $70-$80MM, despite the perception of some, writes Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  • Twins manager Rod Gardenhire says that Japanese import Tsuyoski Nishioka will play at second base this season, tweets Joe Christensen of the Star Tribune.
  • The Tigers' current approach to building their rotation stands out from the rest, writes Ben Nicholson-Smith in a piece for Fangraphs.

Antony On Nishioka, Hardy, Pavano, Liriano, More

Twins Assistant GM Rob Antony recently sat down for a chat with Jesse Lund from Twinkie Town to discuss a variety of topics. Let's recap the hot stove talk…

  • Tsuyoshi Nishioka first popped up on the team's radar after Antony mentioned to his agent that the team was looking to get more athletic on the infield. This was long before they decided to trade J.J. Hardy.
  • The Twins believe Nishioka is a good player, but they understand there might be a bit of a transition period. Not just for the move to MLB, but the move to the United States. They've hired an interpreter for Nishioka, and don't believe the additional Japanese media will be an issue in the clubhouse.
  • The three-year, $9MM contract Nishioka signed was "exactly what we pretty much anticipated and were willing to give." They were trying to add speed and athleticism to the lineup, but no one on the free agent market jumped out at them, hence the pursuit of Nishioka.
  • Hardy was expected to make $5MM+ in 2011 (he eventually signed for $5.85MM), and the team "just decided that we wanted to put that money into other areas." Carl Pavano, Jim Thome, and most of the bullpen were free agents, so they had to prioritize. "Trying to fit all those guys into a budget was going to be impossible."
  • The Twins had conversations with other teams about Hardy, but there were never any real offers. The trade with Baltimore was "by far [their] best opportunity to make a deal." It became apparent that Brendan Harris wasn't a fit anymore, hence his inclusion in the trade.
  • Antony says the Twins like Rule 5 Draft pick Scott Diamond in long relief, and Dusty Hughes' success against Minnesota last year played a role in claiming him off waivers.
  • Although they would have liked to retain Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier, Jon Rauch, and Brian Fuentes, the Twins just "couldn't compete" with the multyear offers they were receiving as free agents.
  • Thome decided that Minnesota was where he wanted to be after talking with his family, and the money didn't appear to be much of an issue.
  • Antony expected Pavano to get two or three years at $10-11MM per season, and he knows the Brewers had some interest in the right-hander. Pavano's agent basically told the Twins he wanted to play there, and he wasn't a guy that was "chasing the last dollar."
  • Rumors of Francisco Liriano being available in a trade were just that, rumors. As far as a multiyear deal with the lefty, Antony said there "can be many reasons why you don't consummate a multiyear deal, and sometimes the player doesn't want to, sometimes the club doesn't want to, sometimes you just don't agree on numbers, or whatever. So we're not going to talk about any of our negotiations with that or anything else, but he was a big part of our rotation. We're not talking to anybody right now on Francisco Liriano."
  • The team is at the "far reaches" of where they can go with payroll, so they tried to maintain flexibility for 2012 by not doing any multiyears deals this offseason (aside from Pavano).
  • "If the right deal arises and we can improve our ballclub, we could look at it from that point of view," said Antony, regarding a potential trade involving one of the team's excess starting pitchers. "I don't think we'd trade away one of our starting pitchers for a middle reliever or something. It would have to be something that would make sense for us. And a trade isn't even the most likely scenario, it's a possible scenario."

Antony also talked about Justin Morneau's health, Delmon Young's breakout, injury concerns, minor league prospects, and much, much more. Make sure you give it a read.

Twins, Nishioka Agree To Three-Year Deal

The Twins officially agreed to terms with Tsuyoshi Nishioka on a three-year, $9MM deal, the team announced today. The deal, which came together soon after the infielder arrived in Minneapolis, includes a club option for a fourth year.

Last year, Nishioka batted .346 with 22 steals and 206 hits. ESPN.com's Keith Law and Patrick Newman of FanGraphs recently explained the switch-hitter's game in detail. The Twins have traded J.J. Hardy and Orlando Hudson is a free agent, so Nishioka and Alexi Casilla figure to be the team's everyday infielders in 2011.

The Twins won the right to negotiate with Nishioka on November 26th when the Chiba Lotte Marines accepted Minnesota's bid. The sides had 30 days to reach an agreement. The GiantsDodgers, and Cardinals reportedly had some interest in Nishioka and the Red Sox submitted a bid in the mid-$2MM range, according to Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. Minnesota's winning bid was for about $5.3MM, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link).

Nishioka, Twins “Very Close” To Deal

8:37am: The sides are close to a three-year, $10MM deal plus an option, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com (Twitter links).

THURSDAY, 7:47am: The Twins are "very close" to a deal with Nishioka, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter).

WEDNESDAY, 6:51pm: Japanese infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka is scheduled to arrive in Minnesota early Thursday morning according to Kelsie Smith and John Shipley of The Pioneer Press, which they say is a good indication that the two sides are moving closer to a deal. GM Bill Smith declined to comment on the matter, however…

"I'm not commenting on any of that," said Smith. "There's very little to report. We're still in discussions and negotiations. As I've been saying, we think he can help us, and I'm very optimistic we can sign him."

The Twins won the bidding for Nishioka a little less than three weeks ago, and they recently offered him a multiyear deal. The two sides still have ten days from tomorrow to get a contract worked out (including physical). Minnesota traded J.J. Hardy to the Orioles last week, which tells us they're confident in getting a deal done with Nishioka. 

Twins Notes: Pavano, Bullpen, Nishioka

La Velle E. Neal III from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune is having a busy offseason. Here's his latest on the Twins: