Tsuyoshi Nishioka asks for release from Twins, agrees to give back $3.25 million

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Tsuyoshi Nishioka will go down as one of the worst acquisitions in Twins history, but at least the final bill will be a little cheaper than expected.

Nishioka asked the Twins to release him and offered to give back his 2013 salary, so naturally they obliged today and he’s officially a free agent.

He was set to earn another $3.25 million as part of a three-year, $9.25 million contract signed after the Twins paid $5.3 million for Nishioka’s exclusive negotiating rights from Japan. So instead of a $15 million flop he’s now a $12 million flop, and the Twins will have a little more cash to throw around this offseason.

Nishioka ends his Twins career with a .215 batting average and .503 OPS in 71 games–plus some brutally bad defense at shortstop and second base–and spent nearly all of this season at Triple-A. Presumably he’ll head back to Japan, where he hit .346 and won a Glove Glove award in 2010 before signing with the Twins, and at age 28 should be able to recoup that $3.25 million and then some.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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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. 😉