Twins win bidding for negotiating rights to Tsuyoshi Nishioka

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No official announcement has been made yet by the Chiba Lotte Marines, but Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that the Twins have won the bidding for the exclusive negotiating rights to Japanese infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka.

Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com confirms Christensen’s report and quotes a source estimating that the Twins’ winning bid was for around $5.3 million. That gives them 30 days to work out a deal with Nishioka, at which point the posting fee would be refunded if the two sides can’t come to an agreement.

Minnesota has J.J. Hardy under team control for 2011 as an arbitration eligible player, but manager Ron Gardenhire has talked repeatedly about wanting to add more speed to the lineup while specifically mentioning shortstop as somewhere that could be accomplished, and Nishioka certainly fits the bill.

Nishioka won the batting title in Japan this season by hitting .346 and he’s averaged 28 steals per season over the past seven years. However, his pre-2010 track record is far less impressive offensively, as he hit .260 in 2009 and came into the season as a career .280 hitter while never managing more than 15 homers. And while he’s won the Japanese equivalent of the Gold Glove award as both a shortstop and second baseman there are reportedly some questions about his ability to be a full-time shortstop in the majors.

If the Twins can agree to a contract with Nishioka–and that’s far from guaranteed, as the A’s negotiations with Hisashi Iwakuma have shown–then Hardy will likely be trade bait. Minnesota simply non-tendering him is also a possibility, but there are multiple teams in the market for a shortstop and the position’s free agent crop is pretty underwhelming.

Report: Welington Castillo to be suspended 80 games for violating Joint Drug Agreement

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Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic confirms a report from journalist Américo Celado that White Sox catcher Welington Castillo will be suspended 80 games for violating baseball’s Joint Drug Agreement. Castillo was believed to have used a steroid, but according to Rosenthal, the substance was not a steroid. More details should come on Thursday.

Castillo, 31, entered Wednesday’s action batting .270/.314/.477 with six home runs and 15 RBI in 118 plate appearances. He has gotten the bulk of the work behind the plate, backed up by Omar Narváez.

Castillo’s absence will likely prompt the White Sox to call up Kevan Smith from Triple-A Charlotte. Smith battled an ankle injury in March and April, so he got a late start to the season. In 102 PA at Triple-A, he has hit .283/.343/.457.