The Twins just officially announced that they have come to terms with Tsuyoshi Nishioka on a three-year, $9 million contract with a club option for 2014. According to LaVelle E. Neal of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the team will hold an introductory press conference tomorrow.
The Twins secured exclusive negotiating rights for Nishioka by submitting a winning bid of $5 million, so it will cost them a total of $14 million to get him in the fold. The 26-year-old infielder is largely an unknown quantity, despite leading the Pacific League with a .346 batting average this past season, but considering that Orlando Hudson just got $11.5 million over two years, this shouldn’t hurt the Twins too badly, even if he becomes the next Kaz Matsui.
While Nishioka was primarily a shortstop during his time in Japan, the common assumption is that he will play second base and that Alexi Casilla will replace J.J. Hardy as the team’s starting shortstop.
Free agent first baseman Edwin Espinal has signed a minor league deal with the Tigers, the infielder announced Saturday. The move has yet to be confirmed by the team.
Espinal, 23, capped a seven-year run with the Pirates’ minor league affiliates in 2017. He split his season between Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis, batting a cumulative .294/.327/.447 with 15 home runs and 31 doubles in 532 plate appearances. While he’s raked at nearly every level so far, he also profiles well on defense, and rounded off his 2017 performance with a perfect fielding percentage, 208 putouts and a Gold Glove award.
Espinal is untested at the major league level and it’s not yet clear if he’ll make the jump in 2018. He showed some positional versatility during his time in the minors, however, and could take reps at third base or DH if necessary. The Tigers are reportedly on the lookout for pitching depth and left-handed bats — two bills the right-handed Espinal doesn’t fit — and presumably have a lot of moves left to make this winter.