Minnesota Twins: New ground being broken with Nishioka negotiations
MINNEAPOLIS -- Negotiating with the agent for Japanese infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka has been far from typical for the Minnesota Twins. Agreeing on who interprets for Nishioka and how many round-trip tickets between the United States and Japan the ...
MINNEAPOLIS -- Negotiating with the agent for Japanese infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka has been far from typical for the Minnesota Twins.
Agreeing on who interprets for Nishioka and how many round-trip tickets between the United States and Japan the club will be on the hook for are just a couple of items Major League Baseball teams must go over in deals involving players from the Japanese Leagues.
"There are a few different pieces to it," Twins general manager Bill Smith said at baseball's winter meetings last week in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
The Twins hope the pieces have fallen into place as the sides close in on an agreement to get the switch-hitting star to Target Field.
There were indications that Nishioka, represented by Rick Thurman of the Beverly Hills Sports Council, was headed to the Twin Cities this week for a physical. That would have been another hint a deal was close.
Travel plans were delayed, but the sides continue to work to get him to town at a later date.
The Twins, who bid more than $5 million for the rights to negotiate with Nishioka, have until Dec. 26 to sign him to a multiyear contract. There have been no indications that a multiyear deal won't get worked out.
Throughout the process, the Twins have talked about ways to help Nishioka feel comfortable with the club once he does sign.
It might lead to a crash course in Japanese culture on their part. The Twins feel strongly about Nishioka's talents -- especially the addition of his speed to their lineup -- to believe he is the right player at the right time for them.
"There will be challenges with the language, the culture, a lot of things we are looking at," Smith said. "That mix of things. We don't want to change the whole culture of the clubhouse for one player. We have the confidence that he wants to be on a winning team and that he will be able to make that transition."
Getting a right fit
Smith stressed that it's also important Nishioka adjusts to the way the Twins do things.
"We have some premier players on our ballclub, and we want him to come in and fit in and be a teammate and not be a group of one and then have a group of 24," Smith said. "If this is going to work, if we are going to be successful with it, we need him to come in and be a teammate, and the group of players we have will embrace him as a teammate."
Nishioka, 26, won the Pacific League batting title last season with a .346 batting average and also had 11 homers, 59 RBI and 22 stolen bases in 144 games. His career batting average is .293 over eight seasons. He's played shortstop and second base in Japan, but the Twins would wait until spring training before deciding where he and Alexi Casilla figure to play in the middle infield.
Nishioka would be the first player the Twins have signed from the Japanese Leagues.
"This is a negotiation where we talked about all of (the different details) well in advance," said Mike Radcliff, Twins vice president of player personnel. "(Assistant GM) Rob Antony is the guy doing the bulk of the negotiation. Other than that, it has been a unique situation thinking about how this guy can fit in."