Back in December 2010, the Minnesota Twins finalized a three-year deal with Tsuyoshi Nishioka. Following the agreement, one-time Twin non-roster invitee C.J. Nitkowski tweeted the following:
“AAA & AAAA middle infielders are wishing they were Japanese imports tonight”
Despite Nitkowski’s pessimism of the deal (he had, after all pitched against Nishioka from 2007-2008 in the Japan Pacific League), few others predicted a wholly negative outcome from this contract. A season and a half in, it appears that that is exactly how this contract turned out. Nishioka was sent to minor league camp early in spring training this year, and he hasn’t come close to sniffing the big leagues since. He’s batting .233/.305/.288 for Rochester in 64 games, 52 of which came at second base. Such performance hardly merits a spot on any team’s 40-man roster, which merits the question whether he is even worth the Twins keeping.
The Twins will undoubtedly have to pay for the $3.25m+ remaining on Nishioka’s contract through 2013, but there may be a way for the team to get a little cash value back on him: selling his rights. I will be honest, I cannot say I’m well-read as to how this process exactly works, but I do know that several big-leaguers have had their rights sold to foreign clubs over the past few years, with whom they then negotiated new deals. Examples include Matt Murton, Vinnie Chulk, Hayden Penn, Brian Gordon, and Henry Sosa.
I bring these examples up because when the phrase “rights sold to” is used, it usually infers money changes hands. I admit I have no idea how much money this could be, but if the Twins paid over $5m to negotiate a contract with Nishioka, couldn’t we at least get a tenth of that ($500k) for foreign club to receive his rights and pay him to play next year in their league? He was a popular and successful player over there, so I’m confident a return overseas would be amenable to him and some club eager to bring in a fan favorite who was a former five-time All-Star in their league.
While it could be tough for Twins management to already admit this was a big mistake and swallow a $3m+ contract, this seems like it could be the best avenue to take: exporting Nishioka, signing another AAA or AAAA middle infielder to take his roster spot in Rochester (for far, far less money), and utilizing the newly vacated spot on the 40-man roster with a promising prospect or a promising big-leaguer on waivers, such as the recently DFA-ed Justin Germano. That way, we may see at least a little value garnered from this situation.