The Minnesota Twins offseason shopping got quite the jump-start on Black Friday.
News came across the wire that the Twins were the highest bidder, and now have 30 days of exclusive contract negotiations with Tsuyoshi Nishioka. Nishioka, 26, is the reigning batting champ in Japan, and a sleek fielding middle infielder.
The winning bid from the Twins came in at over $5 million. If a contract can't be negotiated within 30 days, the Twins will get their bid back.
The Nishioka bid certainly puts the nail in the coffin for any chance of Orlando Hudson returning to the Twins next season. Hudson was already on the outs despite being offered arbitration last week by the Twins. Hudson is a Type B free agent and the Twins will receive a compensatory pick for him leaving.
Assuming the Twins sign Nishioka, which some believe will be in the three-year, $15 million range, the middle infield will be completely turned over from last season. J.J. Hardy would almost certainly be on the outs as well, with possibly Alexi Casilla taking over at shortstop or second base.
Nishioka has been labeled "Ichiro of the infield" after a season where he led Japan with a .346 batting average, 121 runs, 206 hits and 287 bases. All this in only 144 games. He is the first player to reach the 200-hit plateau since Ichiro over a decade ago.
It may be prudent not to expect someone as talented as Ichiro to be playing the infield at Target Field next season. Nishioka may bring impressive numbers to the USA, but Ichiro's shoes are big ones to fill. Talent is only one part of a recipe for success in America. Adapting to America's culture, and living up to an entire nation's expectations have proved too great for many former Japanese stars. Case in point: Kaz Matsui.
In addition to the Twins offering arbitration to Hudson, they also offered arbitration to pitchers Carl Pavano and Jesse Crain.
Carl Pavano was a workhorse for the Twins last season, going 17-11 and pitching the Twins to an AL Central title. He accepted arbitration last season and made $7 million last season for the Twins. Pavano is unlikely to accept arbitration this season as he is almost assured to receive a multi-year deal from a ball club.
Jesse Crain also was offered arbitration, and is also unlikely to accept. He is a Type B free agent and will certainly entertain multi-year deals from many teams looking to bolster their bullpen.