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.
Orioles third baseman Manny Machado will become a free agent after the 2018 season and there hasn’t been much in the way of progress on a contract extension between the two sides. It seems as if Machado will test the open market next offseason.
The Phillies, currently with relatively minuscule obligations for the 2018 season and beyond, are expected to be big players for Machado, as well as other potential free agents like Bryce Harper. In fact, the Phillies may not even want to wait until next offseason, as Roch Kubatko of MASN reports that the club has expressed interest in Machado to the Orioles. In return, the O’s have been doing their homework on the Phillies’ minor league system.
Kubatko notes that the Orioles like, in particular, Phillies prospects Sixto Sanchez and Scott Kingery. The Phillies may be hesitant to part with either considering they can get Machado for a lot of cash but no prospects next winter. MLB Pipeline rates Sanchez as the Phillies’ best pitching prospect and the second-best prospect overall in the system. Kingery is third overall and the top infielder. While the Phillies’ system is among the best in baseball, its notable weakness is pitching, so parting with Sanchez — who throws in the upper 90’s and can hit triple digits — would be a big ask. Kingery is seen as the club’s next second baseman of the future, so much so that the Phillies are shopping Cesar Hernandez at the Winter Meetings.
As usual with rumors during the Winter Meetings, there may be some smoke but no actual fire here. The Orioles are likely to get continued interest in Machado from many teams between now and the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. They are simply doing their due diligence by seeing what the Phillies and others have to offer for Machado.