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  • Nishioka Gets Another Shot

    Sending Tsuyoshi Nishioka to the minors at the outset of this season was a fairly obvious decision, given his immense struggles as a rookie last year. Leaving him there for the majority of the summer has also been an easy choice, as his play in Triple-A has offered no indication that he belongs in the big leagues.

    That remains true now, after a "hot" month of July in which Nishioka batted .298 but posted a meager .702 OPS, but nevertheless the Twins elected to bring him back to the majors when Sunday's Danny Valencia trade opened up a roster spot.

    And you know what? I believe the club made the right choice in recalling the embattled infielder, and I'll take it a step further: I think Nishioka should be starting regularly for Minnesota from here on out.

    Why? For the same reason that Nick Blackburn should keep taking the hill every fifth day, regardless of his performance. Right now, the Twins need to be completely focused on 2013 and beyond, and like it or not, the organization will be paying those two players – who happen to slot in at positions of great need – many millions of dollars next season.

    There's an inclination to label both Nishioka and Blackburn sunk costs, and ultimately that's what they may amount to next year: $8 million in wasted payroll with virtually no return. But that's an ugly scenario and the Twins have plenty of incentive to avoid it. In a late-season situation such as this, where wins and losses don't matter, there's an opportunity to take a long look at both players and try figuring out a way to get some value from them going forward.

    Believe me, I have close to zero faith in that happening, especially in the case of Nishioka. He just doesn't seem to have the tools to succeed as a major-league player. But a lengthy audition in a low-pressure environment with daily access to Joe Vavra and other coaches strikes me as a worthwhile last-ditch effort. Presuming Brian Dozier continues to start on the other side, Nishi won't be stealing playing time from anyone of import.

    When a 28-year-old hits .298/.336/.365 over a month in Triple-A, it's generally not something worth getting excited about. In the case of Nishioka, it is sadly the most positive thing he's done since coming over from Japan. That's the splinter of hope Twins fans must cling to with the failed import, so it's not hard to see why most have summarily dismissed the idea of his playing any role in the club's future, despite his contract.

    How nice it would be if he showed us something over the next two months to make us believe otherwise.
    This article was originally published in blog: Nishioka Gets Another Shot started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 102 Comments
    1. jlovren's Avatar
      jlovren -
      With the amount of money we are paying Nishi, he should get this audition for the remainder of the season. It's not deserved but who knows? It's like the old saying sometimes the sun shines on a dog's ass once in awhile.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      May as well see what you have for 2013. Best case scenario, Nishi plays himself into a starting position at second (unlikely). Most likely scenario, Nishi shows that he's not going to kill the team in the futility role and that Casilla is expendable. Worst case scenario, the Twins know that Nishi is a AAA player and keeps him there for the entire 2013 season.

      It's worth exploring, if only because the most likely scenario is that Nishi sticks as a futility guy and the Twins get to save ~$2m in 2013 by letting Casilla go in the offseason.
    1. DPJ's Avatar
      DPJ -
      Should have let him rot in the minors and maybe want him to return to Japan with his tail between his legs.
    1. PopRiveter's Avatar
      PopRiveter -
      Casilla is expendable either way. Jeff Gray has proven he deserves starts in the MIF as much as Nishi has. Sadly, they know what they have in Nishioka, a sunk cost. I'm bothered by this mostly because it happens in conjuction with the Valencia trade. At his worst, Valencia has been 2x as productive as Nishioka for 1/8th the cost. This audition can only be good news if it convinces Nishi to go back to Japan and reestablish himself as a successful player there.
    1. JB_Iowa's Avatar
      JB_Iowa -
      I assume that you are basically saying that Casilla is the odd man out which isn't really a problem since he is undoubtedly gone after the season anyway and probably has little (if any) value on waivers. I assume that Carroll would then fill in at 3B until Plouffe comes back and would then after that would be a fill-in where the Twins need him since Plouffe should also be getting as much PT as possible.

      And, if Nishioka is still a disaster, it is a daily reminder to the front office of a massive failure in scouting and signing him -- one we can only hope they've learned from.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by PopRiveter View Post
      I'm bothered by this mostly because it happens in conjuction with the Valencia trade. At his worst, Valencia has been 2x as productive as Nishioka for 1/8th the cost. This audition can only be good news if it convinces Nishi to go back to Japan and reestablish himself as a successful player there.
      Valencia is also extremely limited as a player. He's a right-handed bench bat that can play third base and that's about it. With Plouffe on the roster and playing well, the Twins didn't have much interest in keeping Valencia around and I don't blame them for it. By most accounts, he's kind of a douche. On top of that, he stopped trying in the field and stopped hitting. I'm surprised that the Twins got anything for him and given the fact that they're going to need to start clearing space on the 40 man for some of the incoming players, his destiny was pretty much set in stone. Cut and run on the guy.
    1. Mauerzy4Prez's Avatar
      Mauerzy4Prez -
      I see this move more about the young middle infield players we have in the minors, and less about what Nishi has done to earn his call up. The Twins want Escobar to play everyday short stop in AAA, and with Nishi around that was not going to happen. He is also being paid a lot more, and the Twins didn't want to call up another young guy, have to increase their salary, and still end up paying for Nishi in AAA. I was always excited about what Nishi could do based on his play in Japan, however at this point in time I would be happy enough with a guy who can handle second base the rest of the season and try to get on base every once in a while.
    1. birdwatcher's Avatar
      birdwatcher -
      Don't you think Nishi goes right back to AAA when Plouffe is healthy? I question whether there's anything more to the story than that Nishi is the best option for this short period of time. It would surprise me if he didn't perform better than Valencia, both offensively and defensively. There are only two dozen players in the International League sporting an OPS of .750 or higher, so Nishi wasn't dreadful, just bad.
    1. SpiritofVodkaDave's Avatar
      SpiritofVodkaDave -
      Quote Originally Posted by DPJ View Post
      Should have let him rot in the minors and maybe want him to return to Japan with his tail between his legs.
      He has 5 million or so reasons not to. Hell, I'd live in Rochester for a year for that.
    1. Harrison Greeley III's Avatar
      Harrison Greeley III -
      Since we all know his slugging pct. is going to closely mirror his batting average, we should probably stop using OPS as a detractor. I'm only really interested in how well he's making contact and getting on base at this point. And I would agree that if he's not embarrassing himself right now, you might as well give him another shot while not contending and flushing that money down the toilet anyways.
    1. DPJ's Avatar
      DPJ -
      Quote Originally Posted by SpiritofVodkaDave View Post
      He has 5 million or so reasons not to. Hell, I'd live in Rochester for a year for that.
      Playing in obscurity in Rochester or back in Japan still a somewhat national hero?

      Hell didn't Jojihma leave like 10+ million on the table with the M's?
    1. nokomismod's Avatar
      nokomismod -
      I am wondering if they are bringing Nishi back so he can save face and retire after this season knowing that he "earned" his way back to the big leagues and not come away as a completely negative experience. He certainly didn't play his way back into the big league club. I wish the guy the best though...sounds like a stand up guy.
    1. savvyspy's Avatar
      savvyspy -
      Just another meaningless deal by a team that has shown zero interest in getting better. There is no point in even discussing who is better between Valencia and Nishi. They both have VERY limited value and aren't going to make one bit a difference in whether or not this team is going to be in the bottom 5 worst teams in the majors. Nishi is a sunk cost so why not? Valencia is addition by subtraction. That's about it. Bigger question is how does Alexi Casilla still have a roster spot??
    1. DPJ's Avatar
      DPJ -
      Quote Originally Posted by savvyspy View Post
      Bigger question is how does Alexi Casilla still have a roster spot??
      Casilla was learned in the Nick Punto school of under the desk job security.
    1. PopRiveter's Avatar
      PopRiveter -
      Valencia is also extremely limited as a player. He's a right-handed bench bat that can play third base and that's about it.
      I absolutely agree. He can play C level defense and sometimes hit the ball hard (mostly at people.) He's a useful platoon player or fill-in. That isn't very hard to replace.
      I'm just disappointed that his loss means we have to watch Nishioka play. No amount of money left on a contract will make Nishioka a competent MLB player. This is the "Scholarship Program" that was supposed to be removed. You don't have to find out what you have with Nishi. The results have been consistently bad for 2 years.
      Valencia=moderate value, little cost. Nishioka=negative value, core player cost.
    1. DAM DC Twins Fans's Avatar
      DAM DC Twins Fans -
      Quote Originally Posted by birdwatcher View Post
      Don't you think Nishi goes right back to AAA when Plouffe is healthy?
      Yes, I think that is exactly what happens. The trade itself was basically getting an overage rookie league player for Valencia (better than a bus or a bucket of balls) who was done here. Nishi gets a chance to show Twins (and 29 other teams) what his MLB value is--but a short chance.
    1. Rosterman's Avatar
      Rosterman -
      The Twins will probably send a pitcher back for the two weeks before rosters expand in September. Look for all 40-man prospects to get the call up at that time: Hendriks, Guerra, Waldrop, Hernandez, plus Escobar, Tosoni, Parmelee. I'm thinking Benson will stay with New Britain. Assuming the Twins clear further roster space by letting some guys go in August (maybe Capps, Pavano) we might see an early add...yet Hicks is at New Britain and with them in the playoffs, probably not. I would like to see them advance Arcia to the bench, just give him some exposure to what the future might bring. The Twins do have one open roster spot and if Slama can start pitching again, would like to see him get some more major league innings. Right now, I would hate to be a disabled list pitcher who missed out on a season of opportunities: i.e. Slama and Oliveros and Gutierrez. All three are on the bubble stay on the 40-man or in the organization. 7 call-ups in September (maybe 8, depending who goes down with Plouffe comes back). Of course, make that 9 as someone has to go down when Pavano or Capps come back. I don't look for Walters return until September, if then.
    1. Rosterman's Avatar
      Rosterman -
      Anyone of the 40-man roster before season's end can be jettisoned to add guys in the off-season. And a couple of these guys need to be kept around to jettison IF the Twins sign a free agent.
    1. Top Gun's Avatar
      Top Gun -
      Good for him, gives Dozier a little rest. Maybe we can give Alexi away next.
    1. cr9617's Avatar
      cr9617 -
      Let's just hurry up and close the Nishi chapter. Obviously, this guy has no future in the Majors or with the Twins.

      On another note, hindsight being 20/20, the Valencia trade is just one more example of the Twins selling a guy when his value is at it's lowest point.
      These guys haven't been on the forward thinking end of trade in who knows how long.
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