Tsuyoshi Nishioka Rumors

Cardinals Rumors: Pujols, Uribe, Tejada

Cardinals GM John Mozeliak would like to begin talks on an Albert Pujols extension "between now and the Christmas holiday," he told Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.  Strauss has a source who believes Pujols "is unlikely to revisit the matter once the 2011 season opens."  At the least, Pujols figures to sign the third-largest contract in baseball history whether this winter or as a free agent after the '11 season.

Regarding infield upgrades, Mozeliak told Strauss Sunday that "we probably have more of an emphasis on short than second at this point."  They'd also like a utility infielder to back up David Freese at third base.  Unless Dan Uggla fits into the picture somewhere, free agents Juan Uribe and Miguel Tejada are on the Cardinals' radar according to Strauss.  Though they also have an eye on recently-posted infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Mozeliak "indicated the timing may not be right for the club to make such a heavy commitment for a Pacific Rim player."    

It's becoming more and more clear the Cardinals won't be moving Colby Rasmus; today Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports quoted a source who sees a 99% chance of the center fielder staying put.  Indeed, Mozeliak told Strauss Sunday that Rasmus is "almost impossible to replace."

One note you may have missed from yesterday: the team is growing more optimistic about signing Jake Westbrook, according to Rosenthal.

International Links: Nishioka, Twins, Blanco

Patrick Newman from NPB Tracker and MLBTR's Nick Collias relay some information from foreign sources:

  • According to Newman, the Chiba Lotte Marines made a conditional agreement last offseason to allow Tsuyoshi Nishioka to move to MLB. This explains the otherwise puzzling move to post Nishioka coming off his strongest season, with three years left before he's eligible for free agency. Newman says the decision to post Nishioka will be resolved by the 17th.
  • According to this article (translated by Collias), the Twins signed right-handed reliever Yorman Bazardo to a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training. The 26-year-old has previously been with the Marlins, Tigers, Mariners, and Astros organizations. He's seen 60 1/3 innings in the big leagues, but hasn't duplicated his minor league success (3.89 ERA, 2.6 BB/9, 5.4 K/9 in 1091 innings).
  • In a second article translated by Collias, we hear that the Rangers have told Andres Blanco that they view him as either an outfielder or catcher, but no longer as an infielder. The 26-year-old will work out at both positions in the Venezuelan winter leagues to try to earn another spot with the Rangers. In 68 games (185 PAs) this season, Blanco hit .277/.330/.349 while backing up Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus.

Giants, Dodgers Have Interest In Nishioka

The Giants and Dodgers have some interest in Japanese infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka, according to Tom Krasovic of AOL FanHouse (on Twitter). A baseball source suggested to Krasovic that the posting fee to the Chiba Lotte Marines could exceed $4MM. However, reports earlier in the week suggested that the Marines had not yet decided whether to post Nishioka.

The 26-year-old switch hitter batted .346 with 22 steals and 206 hits last year. ESPN.com's Keith Law wrote today that Nishioka can be "valuable as an everyday guy on a second-division club," despite his below-average power and struggles with hard fastballs. For more on the infielder, check out Patrick Newman's analysis at FanGraphs.

The Dodgers have Rafael Furcal at short and Jamey Carroll and non-tender candidate Ryan Theriot at second. The Giants have Freddy Sanchez at second, but shortstops Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria are free agents.

Baseball Blogs Weigh In: Cox, Crawford, DeJesus

Two years ago today the Athletics acquired Matt Holliday from the Rockies in exchange for Carlos Gonzalez, Huston Street, and Greg Smith. Holliday hit .286/.378/.454 in exactly 400 plate appearances with Oakland before being dealt to the Cardinals for a package led by Brett Wallace at the 2009 trade deadline.

Street has battled injuries but has been solid when on the mound for Colorado, pitching to a 3.30 ERA with 9.5 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9 in 109 innings. Smith has appeared in just eight games for the Rox (all starts), putting up a 6.23 ERA. The real get was CarGo, who will certainly be in the MVP mix after a .336/.376/.598 season with 34 doubles, 34 homers, 26 stolen bases, and a batting title.

The hot stove league will certainly bring us more blockbuster trades, but for now you'll have to settle for this long collection of links, the best the blogosphere had to offer this week…

If you have a suggestion for this feature, Mike can be reached here.

Japan Rumors: Nishioka, Kobayashi

The Chiba Lotte Marines will not decide whether to post shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka until after Saturday's championship game, tweets Jason Coskrey of the Japan Times.  Nishioka would prefer to play for the Dodgers if he's posted, reports Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times.  Otherwise, he hopes to land with the Giants, Padres, or Diamondbacks.  Of course, Nishioka can't control which team wins the bidding for the right to negotiate with him.  The 26-year-old switch-hitter batted .346/.423/.482 this year, and was described as a Chone Figgins/Ryan Theriot type by Patrick Newman of FanGraphs.  Hernandez says he'll be represented by Beverly Hills Sports Council if posted.

One Marines player is definitely heading to MLB, tweets Coskrey: free agent reliever Hiroyuki Kobayashi.  The 32-year-old righty reliever posted a 2.21 ERA, 7.82 K/9, 2.07 BB/9, and 0.30 HR/9 in 61 innings this year.  Kobayashi moved to the bullpen in 2010, reported Newman, so he brings versatility.  He will be represented by Octagon, MLBTR has learned.

Odds & Ends: Beltre, Crawford, Mets, Konerko

Links for Tuesday night, as free agents Adam Dunn and Dave Bush celebrate birthdays…

Top Japanese Infielder Hopes To Be Posted

TUESDAY, 7:10am: Though it seems Nishioka wants to be posted, the Marines haven't committed to it, based on quotes from a team official passed along by Jason Coskrey of the Japan Times.  The player will make a formal request tomorrow and the team will decide after talking to him.  For an excellent profile of Nishioka, check out Patrick Newman's latest at FanGraphs.

MONDAY, 7:47pm: The Chiba Lotte Marines are posting the Pacific League’s most recent batting champion, according to Tim Kurkjian of ESPN The Magazine. The Marines are posting Tsuyoshi Nishioka this week and teams in the market for middle infielders will surely take notice; the 26-year-old switch hitter can play second and short.

Nishioka batted .346 with 22 steals and more hits (206) than any Pacific Leaguer since Ichiro Suzuki. ESPN analyst Bobby Valentine, who managed Nishioka in Japan, says he thinks the infielder has the tools to be “an outstanding shortstop,” but suggests most organizations will consider him a second baseman.

Teams will soon be able to place bids for Nishioka through a blind auction. The organization with the winning bid will have 30 days of exclusive negotiating rights to reach a deal.

The free agent market for second basemen and shortstops is relatively thin and the trade market offers few alternatives. It appears that Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima will not be posted, though he hasn't given up on playing in the major leagues in 2011.