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 The Twins were announced as the highest bidder on infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka last Friday, and now have until the day after Christmas to work out a deal before the 26-year old is returned to Japan. The Twins paid the Chiba Lotte Marines approximately $5.3 million to win exclusive negotiating rights with the reigning batting champ of the Japanese Pacific League. Here are his career stats:

YR

Team

AB

R

HR

RBI

SB

CS

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

BABIP

2003

Chiba

9

3

0

1

0

0

.333

.455

.556

1.010

.250

2004

Chiba

212

32

6

35

8

0

.255

.304

.396

.701

.288

2005

Chiba

447

80

4

48

41

9

.268

.320

.394

.714

.298

2006

Chiba

426

58

4

27

33

17

.282

.358

.390

.747

.323

2007

Chiba

494

76

3

40

27

13

.300

.366

.393

.759

.348

2008

Chiba

473

78

13

49

18

11

.300

.357

.463

.820

.334

2009

Chiba

454

70

14

41

26

10

.260

.361

.427

.787

.292

2010

Chiba

596

121

11

59

22

11

.346

.423

.482

.905

.401

 

And Nishioka's major league translations:  

 

YR

Team

AB

R

HR

RBI

SB

CS

BA

OBP

SLG

EqA

EqR

2003

Chiba

9

3

0

1

0

0

.333

.455

.444

.321

2

2004

Chiba

215

27

4

29

6

0

.237

.281

.349

.224

20

2005

Chiba

450

70

2

44

30

8

.256

.299

.371

.241

49

2006

Chiba

430

55

3

27

24

14

.260

.330

.358

.247

51

2007

Chiba

493

78

3

43

21

12

.286

.358

.385

.264

67

2008

Chiba

476

74

10

46

14

10

.282

.338

.422

.262

63

2009

Chiba

459

67

11

39

20

9

.248

.343

.392

.262

63

2010

Chiba

603

116

9

57

16

13

.327

.402

.459

.297

103

 

 

Aside from the batting title, Nishioka’s BABIP increased .109 points from 2009 to 2010, an “unusual and probably unsustainable spike," according to ESPN’s Keith Law. In Law’s “Buyer’s Guide: Middle Infielders” piece, he writes that Nishioka has an “Ichiro-style half-out-of-the-box, no leverage swing” similar not only to Ichiro but to former Japanese imports like Tadahito Iguchi and Kaz Matsui. Iguchi and Matsui each made World Series appearances, but were both very inconsistent throughout their major-league careers. Nishioka’s a solid base stealer, but his days of swiping 40-plus bags are over. 

So where does J.J. Hardy fit into this tale? The Twins envision Nishioka as their starting second baseman, not their starting shortstop, which means the club will likely tender Hardy a contract at Thursday's deadline. Most scouts feel Nishioka is a better fit defensively at second and the Twins cannot afford to lose Hardy’s glove (four runs saved in 2010). Minnesota could man a very strong infield with Nishioka and Hardy up the middle and Justin Morneau and Danny Valencia at the corners. 

Unlike the Hisashi Iwakuma situation with Oakland in which the veteran pitcher is asking for far more money than the Athletics are willing to pay, both sides in Nishoka’s case seem to have a clear understanding of one another. Nishioka’s content with the idea of playing second base, and says he would be more than happy to play for a squad that will again compete and contend for an AL Central division title.

Will Minnesota come to terms with Nishioka? And if so, was it the right move by general manager Bill Smith?

Special thanks to Clay Davenport for data assistance.

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Pronk4848
12/01
I believe they will. A very good front office won't let 5.3 million go to waste. Looks like he will be a very good lead-off hitter, able to get on base before justin and joe.
collins
12/01
The Twins get the $5.3M back if they don't sign him. Jesse, do you guys have any translation from Japanese ball to the majors? That would be very helpful here. I'll be sort of sad not to see Alexi Casilla get another shot at an everyday job, though.
BurrRutledge
12/01
Ditto on any translations...
jjbehr
12/02
Added major league translations.
collins
12/02
Thanks. He looks like he might be worth it then, if as rumored they can get for around $3MM per annum.