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.
All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.
The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.
It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.
It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.
Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉