December 16, 2010 – It has been reported that the Twins have reached an agreement with the switch-hitting 2B/SS Tsuyoshi Nishioka on a 3 year deal plus an option for a fourth year for about $10 million. According to http://www.fangraphs.com/ , Nishioka, who will be 27 in July, has had an injury plagued career so far and 2010 was his first season where he stayed healthy and played a full schedule of games. This past year Nishioka led his league in hitting with a .346 average (.387 from the right side and .329 from the left) and had a league leading 206 hits making him only the second player in the Pacific League to have over 200 hits in a season, Ichiro was the only other player to accomplish this feat. Prior to hitting .346 this past year, Nishioka had never hit over .300. Nishioka has little power but has some speed but still, he only swiped 22 bases in 33 attempts so I have to wonder if the Twins are really getting the speed that Gardy is craving.
Nishioka is a two time Gold Glove winner, winning once at 2B (2005) and once at shortstop in 2007. The word seems to be that he has good range but just an average arm so he may be better suited at 2B for Minnesota. In 2010 Nishioka led his Pacific League shortstops with 19 errors and had the lowest fielding average but he did have more put-outs and assists than any other SS, albeit on artificial turf. It will be interesting to see how Nishioka’s skills transfer to MLB and the Minnesota Twins.
The Twins also traded catcher Jose Morales to the Colorado Rockies for minor league left handed pitcher Paul Bargas. Bargas is 6’1” and goes about 205 pounds. Bargas was drafted by the Rockies in the 13th round of the 2009 draft and has pitched in organized ball in 2009 and 2010. This past year he pitched for Asheville in “A” ball and put up some very nice numbers, all of them in relief. Paul compiled a 5-4 won/loss record and had 5 saves in 58 games. Bargas pitched 67+ innings this year and struck out 64 while walking only 19 and held batters to a .227 average and only gave up 3 home runs and put up a 3.59 ERA to go along with a WHIP of 1.12, not too shabby at all. This was “A” ball but still not too bad a return for Morales.
The Twins were out of options on the left handed hitting Jose Morales and really had no spot for him on the big league roster with Drew Butera appearing to have a solid hold on the back-up catching job due to his catching and throwing skills. I think the Twins did Morales a favor by trading him and getting a young pitcher in return, a trade that might work out well for both the Rockies and the Twins. I am glad to see the Minnesota Twins organization take a chance and move some players that the organization feels have no future in Minnesota while they still have some potential versus letting them “rot on the vine” and then get nothing in return. I think this is also good for the players involved; sometimes a change of scenery is best for all concerned.