Its interesting to read all the bloggers who continue to criticize Twins GM Bill Smith for his trades. Those complaints focus on Matt Capps, Delmon Young, Johan Santana and JD Hardy. As I have pointed out here, those trades, on balance, worked out by contributing to two division championships.
But there has been relative silence on the biggest disaster under Smith's leadership, the decision to sign Tsuyoshi Nishioka. They paid $5 million for the negotiating rights and then guaranteed him $3 million per year for three years.
Nishioka was a Japanese League batting champion and gold glove winner. He was expected to solidify the Twins middle infield playing at either shortstop or second base. In fact, he looked over-matched both in the field and at the plate. In fact, he looked worse than over-matched. And, of course, he spent a good portion of the season on the DL.
The DL issue was not really predictable, but there is still the question of what he was doing on a major league field in the first place. How did that happen? Did the Twins not scout him? Did they underestimate the differences in the game? Was Nishioka intimidated by the cultural transition. Is there a better player there that still might surface?
That last question will no doubt get answered over the remaining two years on Nishioka's contract. But if what we saw this year is what we get, Bill Smith needs to be asking some hard questions of the people who endorsed this move. Because the flaws in Nishioka's game seem to be manifestly obvious. They go well beyond the problems with young prospects like Trevor Plouffe, who struggle to make the transition from AAA.