Saturday, January 7, 2012

Dissecting the Bill Smith era: Tsuyoshi Nishioka

Bill Smith looks on as Tsuyoshi Nishioka dons
his Twins jersey during his signing press conference.
When: December 17, 2010
What: Completed the acquisition of infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka from the Chiba Lotte Marines of the Japanese Pacific League. The Twins paid the Marines $5.3 million in a posting fee for the rights to negotiate with him, and signed Nishioka to a three year deal worth $9.25 million, plus a fourth-season option.
Value: He had 3 win shares and a WAR of -1.8 in an injury-shortened 2011.
Twins motivation: They were looking for a cheaper, long-term anchor for their middle infield.

Many things went desperately wrong for the Twins in 2011. One of the biggest was the failure of the Nishioka signing.

As I said at the time, he wasn't going to be a star. But he was simply not close to a quality major league regular. He didn't hit; he lacked the arm strength to play shortstop; he suffered a broken leg in the first week of the season on the double play pivot as a second baseman.

Terry Ryan has said frequently since assuming the general manager's job that the Twins were giving Nishioka a mulligan. He had the early injury, he had the cultural transition, he had a hamstring problem in September. It was a lost season -- but the Twins still have an investment in him, and some $6 million yet to pay him. So they'll hope that a winter's rehab will solve the leg problems that bedeviled him last year, and that a sounder leg will mean a sounder player.

The Twins allowed him plenty of leeway in 2011. They treated him as an established star, which he was in Japan. I doubt he'll get the same hands-off treatment this time around. The financial investment probably means he'll open the season on the major league roster, but he'll enter camp behind newcomer Jamie Carroll and holdover Alexi Casilla -- and if he plays to last season's low level, he won't keep even the bench job all that long.


  1. As a long-distance Twins fan, I was at Yankee Stadium the day Nishi broke his leg. My companion (a White Sox fan, of all things) said he already noted that Nishi had trouble with the pivot at second base. Little did I know then what a lost season it would be…

  2. He's a bum. And you were spot on with your early assessment, again.

    I remember your thoughts on Liriano in the summer of 2006 - everyone (myself included) thought he was the next Cy Young. You predicted his downfall correctly. It made me mad to read your thoughts at his peak, but I've learned to pay close attention to what you say - it's usually right.