The Twins announced today that they had reassigned 12 players to their minor league teams. The biggest names were 2B/SS Tsuyoshi Nishioka and outfielder Rene Tosoni. Nishioka is guaranteed $3 million this season and next and he just has not shown that he is the player that the Twins thought they were getting when they paid $5.3 million just to gain his negotiation rights. Nishioka does not seem comfortable playing second or shortstop in the big leagues and the man who won a batting title in Japan has not shown anything to speak of with his bat. One of the main reasons for signing Nishioka last season was that Gardenhire wanted to add some speed to the team but all Nishioka could muster was two stolen bases in six attempts. Couple that with the perception that Nishioka appears to want to do things his way versus the Twins way and did not seem to fit in with the rest of his teammates and you have a player that will cost you $3 million for the next two seasons and if you are really honest, you would say that he does not even deserve to be in AAA Rochester with what he has shown the Twins in his year with the club. In my opinion, the Nishioka signing was one of the main reasons that Bill Smith was fired as the Twins GM, not the only reason, but it was a key contributor. If you spend $15 million of Pohlad money and make a “Nishioka” mistake, you had best be prepared to suffer the consequences. But why send Nishioka down about half way through spring training? It has to be a message that Ryan is sending to Nishioka and to the rest of the Twins team. The Twins are not exactly blessed with an abundance of infield prospects so sending Nishioka down should give players like Sean Burroughs, Pedro Florimon and Mike Hollimon some hope for a utility role with the big club. At this point the Twins have to look at Nishioka as sunk money and just want to move on without his distraction. I don’t see Nishioka as one of Ryan’s favorite players and Ryan really has no ties to Nishioka so sending him packing will not cause Ryan to lose any sleep at all. Besides, there is always the chance that Nishioka will be embarrassed by his demotion and ask the club for his release and that would be a win-win for all parties and would end a very sorry but hopefully short chapter in Twins history.
The numbers game has caught up with Rene Tosoni who is 25 and probably a career utility outfielder who is not talented enough to garner a starting role but would make an adequate 4th or 5th outfielder. However; with Willingham, Span, Revere, Plouffe, and Doumit a cinch to make the team and Joe Benson pushing hard, there is no room for Tosoni at this time.
Pitcher Carlos Gutierrez, 25, was also sent down to get more experience and prove that his control issues are a thing of the past. Gutierrez had no serious control issues in his 5 innings pitched this spring but in 66 innings at Rochester in AAA, Carlos has walked 33 batters. The other players that the Twins sent down today were pitchers Jason Bulger, Luis Perdomo, Daryl Thompson, Esmerling Vasquez and P.J. Walters; catchers Chris Herrmann and Daniel Rohlfing; infielder Aaron Bates; outfielder Wilkin Ramirez.