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Twins send Tsuyoshi Nishioka to Triple-A with two years and $6.25 million left on contract

Mar 19, 2012, 10:15 AM EDT

Tsuyoshi Nishioka AP

After watching Tsuyoshi Nishioka hit and field terribly for 68 games last season and look even worse this spring the Twins announced that they’re sending him to Triple-A with two years and $6.25 million remaining on his contract.

Toss in the $3 million he made last season and the $5.25 million they paid for his exclusive negotiating rights from Japan and Nishioka is a $14.5 million bust who may never make it back to the majors at age 27. And he was truly that awful, hitting .226 with zero homers and a .527 OPS while being overmatched at both second base and shortstop.

In theory this gives him an opportunity to get his career back on track against lesser competition and with less of a spotlight on his performance, but that will only help in the long run if Nishioka is a major-league player and … to say the jury is still out on that doesn’t give the jurors much credit for seeing the obvious.

What makes the decision to invest $14 million and a starting job in Nishioka last offseason even worse is that the Twins dumped J.J. Hardy to make room for him in the budget and on the field. And then Hardy, who was traded to Baltimore for a pair of mediocre minor-league relievers, smacked 30 homers for the Orioles and signed a three-year, $22 million extension.

And now Nishioka will be the highest-paid player–and most likely nowhere near the best player–in the International League.

  1. Cris E - Mar 19, 2012 at 10:31 AM

    Either this middle infield situation is simply the result of an embarrassing time for the Twins front office, a final wiping away of Bill Smith’s mistakes and poor choices, or we’re about to see the unveiling of their master plan that’ll shock the world.

    Hmmm, Terry Ryan with a master plan, or Terry Ryan with a lot of kid shortstops at single A. I wonder which we’ll see this year?

  2. Old Gator - Mar 19, 2012 at 11:13 AM

    Well, if you’re gonna be stuck in AAA, having two years and six million n’ change left on your contract is a pretty cushy way to be stuck.

  3. Ben - Mar 19, 2012 at 11:28 AM

    The Twins really need to rethink their organizational strategy from the bottom to the top. Pinpoint control college pitchers yield really low ceiling, expendable fourth starters, their hitting development, with the exception of Morneau and Mauer, has been abysmal. Their trades and free-agent signings have vacillated wildly between flashes of genius, followed by head-scratching incompetence. Part of that is about Bill Smith, but the first part, the organizational part, that’s systemic and needs to be addressed head-on. Basically the only thing Twins fans have to look forward to is Miguel Sano in 2014 or 2015.

    • Mohammed Chang - Mar 19, 2012 at 1:42 PM

      I haven’t stumbled across a whole lot of information on the work the Twins did prior to signing Nishioka, but remembering back to Jesse Lund of Twinkie Town’s 2011 spring training interview with assistant GM Rob Antony, the impression given off was that the Twins hadn’t really scouted Nishioka prior to his breakout 2010 season, and hadn’t looked at him all that much even then, but that he was someone who had gotten on their radar and they’d had scouts look at him a few times during 2010. You wonder if they bothered to ask the question about his professional track record prior to 2010 and if his gains that year were sustainable (even without moving to MLB).

      Gardenhire was publicly vocal about his want of more speed up the middle, so out goes Hardy (the last reminant of the poor Johan Santana trade other than Deolis Guerra, as Hardy was aquired for Carlos Gomez) and in comes Nishioka and the rest is awful.

      They’re a very depressing organization to follow, because they seem to succeed in spite of their front office’s best efforts. The disappointment that was the Bill Smith era at least offered a chance for a new organizational direction, some new ideas, but instead they brought Terry Ryan back for more of the same.

      Their organizational approach seems counter-intuitive as well. Players like J.J. Hardy and David Ortiz have spoken publicly about the Twins’ coaching them to prioritize making contact when at the plate (at the expense of pulling the ball and hitting for power), and the organization also seems to like pitchers who pitch to contact and wanted Liriano to focus on doing so coming into 2011.

      The clubs post-season struggles, especially against the Yankees’ powerful line-up must surely be tied in some extent to their pitchers relative inability to miss bats.

  4. shanabartels - Mar 19, 2012 at 11:34 AM

    He’s the Kei Igawa of the Twins, except less expensive.

  5. marshmallowsnake - Mar 19, 2012 at 11:54 AM

    When will MLB teams realize that the majority of the players from foreign countries will need the same amount of minor league seasoning as drafted players? There have only been a handful that have come in and been spectacular.

  6. jason1214 - Mar 19, 2012 at 9:45 PM

    Im sorry, the Pohlads cant hear all of you, they are busy stuffing the coffers with all that new ballpark revenue, rather than investing it WISELY rather than stupidly back into the team.

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