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.
MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports that the Orioles have interest in free agent right-hander Alex Cobb, who rejected his one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Rays earlier this week. Cobb was most recently linked to the Cubs, who reportedly reached out to his agent during the GM Meetings and garnered mutual interest from the righty, but nothing appears to be set in stone yet.
Cobb, 30, completed his sixth season with the Rays in 2017. He went 12-10 in 29 starts and turned in a respectable 3.66 ERA, 6.4 SO/9 and career-best 2.2 BB/9 in 179 1/3 innings. Despite losing a couple of weeks to turf toe, he remained healthy for most of the year and showed no signs of the elbow issues that robbed him of the majority of his 2015-2016 campaigns.
It’s still fairly early for any deals to come to fruition, but Morosi notes that the Orioles seem to be focused on bulking up their rotation during the first few months of the offseason. It’ll take more than a healthy Alex Cobb to right that ship, however: Orioles’ starters earned a collective 5.70 ERA and 5.5 fWAR in 2017, good for worst and fourth-worst marks in the league, respectively. Behind Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy (and perhaps Gabriel Ynoa/Miguel Castro), they still need three viable starters to compete in 2018. Whether or not they can afford to spring for a single starter with Cobb’s price tag (four years, $48 million, per MLB Trade Rumors) remains to be seen.