There have been plenty of posts about these moves from many of the great Twins bloggers across the web but here are a couple of my thoughts on each of these players.
Blackburn's extension sure looks bad now
During spring training in March of 2010, the Twins gave Blackburn a contract extension with guaranteed money through the end of next season. At the time, Blackburn was still eligible for arbitration and the only defense of the move was that the team was trying to save some money if he turned into a pitcher that was worth a darn. Instead the team is paying him $4.75 million for 2012 and they owe him $5.5 million for next year with a ridiculous option of $8 million for 2014.
When the team signed him to his extension, Blackburn was coming off of what has turned out to be his best season at the big league level. However, he has been arguably the worst starting pitcher in MLB since that time. In 408 innings on the mound since the start of 2010, Blackburn has a 5.56 ERA with a WHIP of 1.569 and it just gets worse from there. His contract and the lack of pitching depth in the organization forced the Twins to trot him out to the mound much more then he should have been there.
A little over a week ago, Ron Gardenhire told the media that Nick Blackburn, "will be one of our pitchers again next year." It looked like the manager was trying to stick by one of his players and Blackburn would most likely be the veteran of the staff for 2013. It looks like scenario won't play out for next year and it looks like the 30-year old's future at the big league level is a giant question mark at this point.
Scouting department whiffed on Nishioka
There was plenty of hype across Twins Territory when the team brought in a middle infielder from overseas during the offseason a couple of years ago. It seemed like a shift for a team that had struggled with payroll limitations in the past. Target Field and the revenue that it created allowed the team to outbid other MLB team's for the services of a batting champion and Gold Glove winner from Japan. The team signed him to a relatively cheap contract for three years and $9.25 million on top of the $5 million that the team spent for his negotiating rights. All of this money seems like a giant sunk cost after two very disappointing years for Tsuyoshi Nishioka.
Somebody in the scouting department for the Twins had to have messed up on this player. The middle infielders to come to the US from Japan in the past have shown signs of struggling at the big league level. This would seem to breed an atmosphere of caution with another star infielder from Japan trying to make at the MLB level. He had played multiple infield positions in Japan and he had been a successful hitter so the signs were there to point to him finding a little bit of success with the Twins. Nishioka never found this success and the team is paying him $3 million for this year and next year to be a middle infielder in their minor league system.
An injury to Trevor Plouffe meant the Twins needed to add an infielder to the roster at the beginning of August. Even though Nishioka was not performing at Triple-A, the team gave him another shot with the big league club. He appeared in three games for the team in Cleveland and he looked awful by going 0-12 at the plate and making multiple miscues on the defensive side of the ball. When the team returned home from their road trip, Nishioka stayed on the bench because it could have gotten nasty in front of the hometown crowd. The Target Field faithful might have taken out the last two terrible seasons on the poor middle infielder. His MLB career is undoubtedly over and the Twins whiffed on this signing.