Tag:NL West
Posted on: December 17, 2011 5:24 pm
 

Why the Padres traded Mat Latos

Yonder Alonso

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Every trade happens for a reason -- or two reasons, actually. One for each side. With Saturday's big deal between the Reds and Padres, we'll look at the reasons for both sides. You can read the Reds' reasons here, but here's why the Padres sent Mat Latos to Cincinnati:

The Padres aren't expected to contend in 2012, instead, they're building for the future, just as they did last season when they sent Adrian Gonzalez to Boston. While the Padres sent Gonzalez to Boston because they couldn't afford to pay him what he was going to make, they traded Latos to add overall talent, getting two big leaguers and two prospects who aren't far off. 

As for Latos, the 24-year-old came into 2011 as the team's ace, but failed to live up to his outstanding 2010. The Padres were unhappy that Latos came into spring training last season out of shape and they also questioned his maturity at times. San Diego has stockpiled young pitching with the likes of Tim Stauffer and Clayton Richard -- with Casey Kelly, Joe Wieland and Robbie Erlin in the minor leagues getting closer to being able to contribute. And let's face it, you don't need swing-and-miss stuff to succeed at Petco Park.

"Some of these guys who I have been around, I remember guys we had in Cleveland like Jaret Wright and Bartolo Colon who were untouchables. Colon went on to have a great career, Wright was injured. It's part of the risk and reward with any pitcher," Padres general manager Josh Byrnes said. "Mat grew up in a hurry in the big leagues, he was probably going to do very well. We have a very good group of pitchers, and we have a good group in Double-A coming behind them." 

Brad BoxbergerThe bottom line for San Diego is they got more talent than they gave up on Saturday.

In all, San Diego got four players and three, if not all four, could play in San Diego this upcoming season.

Anthony Rizzo may be the Padres' top prospect, but the first baseman wasn't expected to be ready to man the position right away. Yonder Alonso, on the other hand, is more than ready. Playing nearly with any other team, he'd have gotten more than 98 plate appearances than he got with the Reds in 2011. But that's what happens when you're playing behind the reining MVP. In those 98 plate appearances, he hit .330/.398/.545 and showed a bit of power, but his plate awareness was even more impressive. The Reds flirted with putting Alonso in left field and at third base, but he never gained the confidence of the team's top brass at either spot. Byrnes said the team would use Alonso at first, and "probably not" in the outfield.

• Yasmani Grandal was Cincinnati's top pick in 2010. A switch-hitting catcher, Grandal played at three different levels in 2011, hitting 14 home runs between Single-A Bakersfield, Double-A Carolina and Triple-A Louisville. Like Alonso, his former teammate at the University of Miami, Grandal's knowledge of the strike zone and approach at the plate is one of his top attributes. Reviews of his work behind the plate have been mixed so far. While he may not be ready to play in the majors this season, he is still easily the Padres' top catching prospect. San Diego drafted Austin Hedges in the second round of the 2011 draft and have been impressed by him, but he's still several years away from the majors.

• Brad Boxberger (pictured) isn't one of the names many casual fans had heard of, but the Reds were considering him in the mix for the closer spot if they are unable to find a free-agent or trade replacement for Francisco Cordero. The Padres also think he could be a closer for them down the line. A supplemental first-rounder in the 2009 draft out of USC, Boxberger had 11 saves between Double-A and Triple-A in 2011, striking out 93 batters in 62 innings. He has struggled with control, but showed better command in the Arizona Fall League. On Saturday, Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said Boxberger was possibly the key to the deal. The Reds had been dangling the other three players, but didn't want to move Boxberger. But the Padres insisted and Jocketty made the move.

• Finally there's the former All-Star, Edinson Volquez. Still just 28, Volquez's talent has never been in question. He has an electric right arm and a great changeup. As much as his control has been in question, the true struggles have been above the neck. He was twice sent to the minor leagues in 2011, mirroring his behavior from earlier in his career with the Rangers. The Reds, unsure if Josh Hamilton could stay healthy and wanting an elite arm, traded Hamilton for Volquez and Daniel Ray Herrera after the 2007 season. Both Volquez and Hamilton made the All-Star team in 2008, but Volquez then had arm troubles and missed most of 2009 and 2010 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Since his return, he's showed velocity, but not control or consistency. He could bounce back, but walks have been his biggest problem, so playing at Petco Park won't help him as much as other pitchers. 

"Volquez is a bit of a wild card here," Byrnes said. "He was a very decorated prospect, an All-Star coming off Tommy John surgery and he hasn't returned to form. We think his stuff is very good, 90-96, a devastating changeup. Given his age, another year past surgery, our pitching coach and our ballpark, hopefully it can turn around for him." 

Latos is a talent, but in the end, the Reds offered just too much for the Padres to walk away from the deal.

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Posted on: December 17, 2011 5:18 pm
Edited on: December 18, 2011 11:54 am
 

Why the Reds traded for Mat Latos

Mat Latos

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Every trade happens for a reason -- or two reasons, actually. One for each side. With Saturday's big deal between the Reds and Padres, we'll look at the reasons for both sides. You can read the Padres' reasons here, but here's why the Reds sent four players to San Diego for right-hander Mat Latos:

When the Reds won the National League Central in 2010, Edinson Volquez was their starter in Game 1 of the National League division series against the Phillies against Roy Halladay. Halladay, of course, no-hit the Reds that night, while Volquez was lifted before the end of the second inning, having allowed four earned runs and was saddled with the loss. The need for a true No. 1 was evident even before that game, but became more dire afterward.

In 2011, Johnny Cueto took a step forward and showed he may be the future ace the team needed. But it still needed a No. 2 -- enter Latos. The 24-year-old went 14-10 in 2010 with a 2.92 ERA and was a Cy Young candidate in 2010. He took a bit of a step back in 2011, going 9-14 with a 3.47, with his walk rate increasing by half a walk per nine innings and his stirkeout rate dropping just a tad more than that. 

Saturday, Latos said he learned from his 2011 to trust himself and not worry about where he was pitching or who he was pitching against. The results show someone who may have learned, going 5-10 with a 4.04 ERA in the first half of the season and 4-4 with a 2.87 ERA in the second half, and bettering his strikeout-to-walk ration from 2.45 before the All-Star break and 3.83 afterward. Opponents' batting average on balls in play dropped dramatically from .314 to .258 in the second half, but his strikeouts also increased. 

Devin MesoracoReds general manager Walt Jocketty said he felt Latos could pitch in Great American Ball Park, which is about as different from the pitcher-friendly Petco Park as you can get.

There's no question that Latos improves the Reds' rotation, joining Cueto, Bronson Arroyo, Mike Leake and Homer Bailey -- as well as Aroldis Chapman, who will be used as a starter in spring training, at least. But that's not the only reason the Reds made the move.

First of all, Latos will be a Red for years to come. He's under team control through 2015 and isn't arbitration eligible until the 2013 season. He's also just 24, having celebrated his 24th birthday little more than a week ago.

By dealing Alonso and Volquez, the Reds now have more money to play with in free agency or to take on salary. Alonso signed a big-league deal after being drafted and is due $1 million in 2012, while Volquez is arbitration-eligible and could make as much as $2.5 million next season, while paying Latos at or near the minimum.

Like Alonso, Yasmani Grandal signed a big-league deal after he was drafted, so the net move is two more spots on the team's 40-man roster.

"We've got some things on the back burner and the front burner," Jocketty said. "We're trying to do one more deal for pitching and we're looking at potential free agents for offense."

The roster spots and money cleared give the Reds a little more room to make those kinds of deals. They do have fewer prospects, though. The Reds still need a closer (or could use Chapman) and are looking to upgrade their left field options.

Alonso, Grandal and reliever Brad Boxberger were all ranked as top 10 prospects in the Reds system for 2012 by Baseball America. It's a heck of a haul for the Padres. That said, the top two prospects -- Alonso and Grandal -- at least, were redundant to the Reds. 

Alonso is the team's top prospect at first base, but the Reds already have an MVP at first base -- or at least they do for the next two seasons before Joey Votto becomes a free agent. He tried to play left field, but not too many in the Reds organization felt he could actually do it.

And then there's Grandal, the team's top pick in the 2010 draft. The switch-hitting catcher was rated the fourth-best prospect in the Reds' system, but the second-best catcher behind Devin Mesoraco (pictured). The Reds allowed Ramon Hernandez to exit via free agency because Mesoraco no longer has anything to prove at the minor-league level and can team with Ryan Hanigan as a solid catching tandem for the next couple of years. Hanigan, a very good defensive catcher with a good on-base percentage, is under team control through 2014.

While Boxberger is seen as a possible closer, he's still a reliever, and a Triple-A one at that. Jocketty said without Boxberger the deal probably wouldn't get done, and if the Reds really wanted to get Latos, Boxberger wasn't going to stand in the way.

And then there's Volquez. The Reds sent Volquez to Triple-A twice in 2011 to try to get his control issues straightened out, but he never seemed to get it fixed. Voqluez wasn't being counted on in the rotation and didn't really have a place on the roster -- and could cost some money.

There's no doubt the Reds paid dearly -- more than one front-office person told me the Reds grossly overpaid and I tend to agree -- but Jocketty dealt from positions of depth. The deal could hurt the Reds, but losing those players may not hurt them as much as it would another team. The 2012 Reds are better today than they were Friday. With Votto's time in Cincinnati apparently closing in on its last two years, the Reds wanted to make a play in the National League Central that no longer has Albert Pujols, may not have Ryan Braun for 50 games and could still lose Prince Fielder, and they did that by adding Latos.

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Posted on: December 17, 2011 1:36 pm
Edited on: December 17, 2011 7:59 pm
 

Reds send four to San Diego for Latos

Mat Latos

By C. Trent Rosecrans

The Reds have been looking for a top-of-the-rotation starter for the last two years and filled it, but at a deep cost, sending Yonder Alonso, Edinson Volquez, Brad Boxberger and Yasmani Grandal to the Padres for 24-year-old right-hander Mat Latos, the team announced on Saturday.

Hot Stove League

In Latos, the Reds get a partner for Johnny Cueto at the top of their rotation, something they've desperately needed. Latos, who just turned 24, isn't arbitration-eligible until 2013 and is 27-29 with a 3.37 ERA in three seasons with the Padres. Latos was 9-14 with a 3.47 ERA in 31 starts for the Padres last season, striking out 185 batters in 194 1/3 innings.

"Mat is a big, strong young pitcher with electric stuff," Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said in a release from the team. "We consider him to be a potential number one starter who, contractually, we have under control for four more years. To acquire a pitcher who is ready to fit into the top of a rotation, you have to give up talent." 

Alonso hit .330/.398/.545 with five home runs and 15 RBI in 98 plate appearances for the Reds last season. A first baseman, Alonso was blocked in Cincinnati by Joey Votto. He had played some left field hoping to get time there, but he's more suited to first base.

Grandal, a switch-hitting cathcer, was the team's first-round pick in 2010 out of the University of Miami. Boxberger was a potential closer for the Reds this season after being taken in the first round of the 2009 draft. Volquez, an All-Star in 2008, was acquired in the trade that sent Josh Hamilton to Texas.

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Posted on: December 16, 2011 2:41 pm
Edited on: December 16, 2011 5:45 pm
 

Bonds sentenced to house arrest, appeals



By Matt Snyder


Former Giants and Pirates All-Star Barry Bonds has been sentenced to two years probation, 30 days house arrest and 250 hours of community service. Bonds -- who made more than $188 million as a baseball player -- was also fined $4,000.

He was convicted of obstruction of justice back in April.

Bonds is appealing, so he'll remain free and unpunished until the appeal is heard. And the appeal is likely to take a year or more. So this will drag on even longer.

Bonds, 47, faced up to 21 months in federal prison for having given misleading testimony in front of a grand jury during the trial for BALCO. He was first charged four years ago for lying under oath about using steroids (aka "the cream" and "the clear"), in addition to using "rambling non sequiturs" in an attempt to mislead the grand jury.

Despite the conviction, Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Parrella said home arrest, considering Bonds lives in a 15,000 square-foot Beverly Hills home, wasn't enough punishment for Bonds. Parrella told the Associated Press that the sentence was "almost laughable" and a "slap on the wrist."

"The defendant basically lived a double life for decades," argued Parrella, who said Bonds tested positive for steroids and amphetamines during his playing days. "He had mistresses throughout his marriages."

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston said that had nothing to do with the case.  

Aside from Bonds, 10 others have been convicted of various charges stemming from the BALCO trials. Six -- including former Track star Marion Jones -- were nailed for lying under oath. Greg Anderson, Bonds' personal trainer, pleaded guilty of steroid distribution charges.

During his playing career, Bonds won seven NL MVP awards and was a 14-time All-Star. He holds the record for home runs in a single season (73) and career (762). Only Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and Lou Gehrig have a higher career OPS. If there wasn't that cloud of performance-enhancing drugs hanging over his head, Bonds would be a surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer and widely considered one of the best -- if not the best -- players of all time.

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Category: MLB
Posted on: December 16, 2011 10:29 am
Edited on: December 16, 2011 11:08 am
 

Rockies agree to sign Michael Cuddyer



By Matt Snyder


Free agent outfielder Michael Cuddyer has agreed to sign a three-year, $31.5 million contract with the Colorado Rockies, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com has learned. The final stages of the contract are currently being completed.

Cuddyer is an 11-year veteran and has only played for the Twins. But when the Twins and Cuddyer had two different figures in mind for a contract, the Twins went ahead and signed Josh Willingham, seemingly leaving no room for Cuddyer. The Rockies had been courting Cuddyer anyway, so when Willingham went to Minnesota, the door was open. Cuddyer had wanted at least $30 million over three years from the Twins -- who reportedly offered $25 million over three years -- so the Rockies came up with the figure needed. Minnesota, meanwhile, used $24 million in a three-year contract to net Willingham. 

Hot Stove
Cuddyer, 32, has played every position in a major-league game except shortstop and catcher. Yes, he's even pitched. But he's going to serve as a right fielder and first baseman for the Rockies. He'll become the everyday right fielder, while also spelling Todd Helton from time to time, likely eventually taking over for him.

The Rockies found Cuddyer to be a good fit both in terms of on-field performance and in the clubhouse. They were interested in Carlos Beltran as a backup plan, so he will now have to look elsewhere. Earlier this week, CBSSports.com's Scott Miller reported the Cardinals, Blue Jays and "at least two other unidentified clubs" are also interested in Beltran, so he's definitely not left out in the dark.

Cuddyer hit .284/.346/.459 with 20 homers, 70 RBI, 70 runs and 11 stolen bases last season. He made the All-Star team for the first time in his career, though he had very good seasons in 2006 and 2009 as well. He's not a marquee bat, but he doesn't have to be. The Rockies have Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki holding down the 3-4 spots in the order. We should also recognize that Cuddyer is moving from a pitcher's park in Target Field to Coors Field, which ranked as the top hitter's park in 2009-10 and second-best in 2011 behind Rangers Ballpark.

The move puts Gonzalez in left field and Seth Smith is now moved to the bench as the fourth outfielder. Smith has been mentioned throughout the offseason in trade rumors, so don't expect those to quiet down anytime soon.

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Posted on: December 16, 2011 7:39 am
Edited on: December 16, 2011 7:41 am
 

HomegrownTeam: Los Angeles Dodgers



By Matt Snyder

What if players were only permitted to stay with the team that originally made them a professional? No trades, no Rule-5 Draft, no minor or major league free agency ... once you are a professional baseball player, you stay in that organization. This series shows how all 30 teams would look. We give you: Homegrown teams. To view the schedule/past entries of this feature, click here.

Do the Dodgers do well in drafts and international signings? The answer is a resounding yes. What they do with those players could certainly be questioned, but as far as building a foundation, few have been better in recent years. See below.

Lineup

1. Dee Gordon, SS
2. Shane Victorino, RF
3. Matt Kemp, LF
4. Paul Konerko, 1B
5. Adrian Beltre, 3B
6. Carlos Santana, C
7. Franklin Gutierrez, CF
8. Miguel Cairo, 2B

Starting Rotation

1. Clayton Kershaw
2. Edwin Jackson
3. Ted Lilly
4. Hiroki Kuroda
5. Chad Billingsley

If you don't like us using Kuroda -- some commenters have disagreed with including guys who were professional players in Japan in this series -- you can slide in James McDonald or the youngster Rubby De La Rosa.

Bullpen

Closer - Joakim Soria
Set up - Javy Guerra, Joel Hanrahan, Kenley Jansen, Takashi Saito, Jonathan Broxton, Pedro Feliciano, Cory Wade
Long - McDonald

Notable Bench Players

Russell Martin, Henry Blanco, James Loney, Blake DeWitt, Trayvon Robinson, Jerry Sands, Alex Cora

What's Good?

Spoiler Alert: This section is going to be much longer than "what's not." How about starting with the offensive firepower Victorino, Kemp, Konerko, Beltre and Santana bring in the 2-6 spots of the order? That is sick. Gordon has good potential and Gutierrez was a decent hitter before his stomach issues derailed him a few years ago. The starting rotation is good, deep, has a good lefty-righty mix and a true ace sitting at the top. The bullpen is so deep it's unimaginable. It's not as great as the Yankees' bullpen (Clippard-Robertson-Axford-Rivera) in this exercise, but this is definitely an elite unit. The bench is pretty damn good, too. Best of all, though, how about the defensive range? Gutierrez was widely considered the best center fielder in baseball before his stomach woes. Victorino is a three-time Gold Glover while he lost out to Kemp this season. I decided to shift Kemp to left because Victorino has a cannon that is an asset in right. Not that Kemp can't throw. This would be one insane defensive outfield. Beltre is the best defensive third baseman in baseball, too. That's a lot of help for an already-good pitching staff.

What's Not?

Anything would be a nitpick. Maybe that Dee Gordon might not yet be ready to lead off for this team? If that was the case, you could move up Victorino and then the bottom of the order becomes a bit weak. But, again, that's a nitpick.

Comparison to real 2011

I kind of chuckled during all the MVP arguments when people would say that Kemp played for a team that "sucks." The Dodgers finished 82-79. Yes, they were out of contention for pretty much all of the season, but they finished above .500, so they definitely don't suck. Of course, those real-life Dodgers couldn't hold a candle to this group. This is a World Series-caliber club, but the funny thing is, did you see Arizona's team? The D-Backs lineup is much better, but the Dodgers have the better defense and pitching. We'd have a nice battle for the NL West title and maybe even see a rematch in the NLCS. If only ...

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Posted on: December 15, 2011 6:37 pm
 

Dodgers to have promotion for Angels manager

By Matt Snyder

The Dodgers are going to be handing out bobbleheads of the opposing manager -- in Dodgers garb -- on June 12. The Angels will be in Dodgers stadium for their annual interleague series there, and the Dodgers giveaway is a bobblehead doll of former catcher/Angels current manager Mike Scioscia. Obviously there's nothing wrong with honoring a Dodgers great, it's just really rare that it is happening when he's guiding the enemy on that particular day.

(And, yes, it's a slow news day. You don't have to ask in the comments section, I'll confirm it here.)

Scioscia, 53, was a two-time All-Star in his 13-year Dodgers career. He never played for another big-league club and is the franchise's all-time leader in games behind the plate (1,394). He was the starting catcher for the 1981 and 1988 World Series championship teams as well.

The Scioscia bobblehead is part of a promotion called the Dodger Stadium Greats Bobblehead Series. It includes bobbleheads "of the most unforgettable Dodgers in Dodger Stadium history." The others: Maury Wills, Don Drysdale, Orel Hershisher, Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell, Ron Cey, Tommy Lasorda, Walter Alston, Fernando Valenzuela and Sandy Koufax.

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Posted on: December 14, 2011 11:48 pm
 

Checking in on past products of posting system



By Matt Snyder


With Yu Darvish having been posted and the deadline to submit bids having passed, we now wait in anxious anticipation to see which team wins the honor to negotiate with the 6-foot-5 right-hander. Due to some of the past failures within the system, there seems to be a certain amount of stigma attached to paying so much money just to negotiate with a player. Let's check out the players who signed major-league contracts after going through the posting system and see how they fared.

Before we get to the players, though, let's clarify a few things. First of all, the posting system didn't begin until December of 1998. So Hideo Nomo, for example, was never posted. Also, not every single Japanese import since 1998 went through the system, either. Players who get to free agency in Japan become international free agents -- this is the route Hideki Matsui and Kosuke Fukudome, to name two, have taken. International free agents can sign with whatever MLB team they wish and have no posting fee paid to their former teams. And some players went through the posting system and either ended up signing minor-league contracts or not signing at all.

The following eight players did go through the posting process prior to last season and end up with a major-league contract. Let's look at each, chronologically.

(player, year posted, winning team, posting fee paid -- which does not include player salary)

Ichiro Suzuki, 2000, Mariners, $13.125 million
The 10-time All-Star won the MVP his first season in America. He's led the league in hits seven times and sports a career average of .326. He's become a franchise icon and could be headed to the Hall of Fame despite not playing in America until he was 27. So, yeah, this one worked out just fine.

Kaz Ishii, 2002, Dodgers, $11.26 million
The left-handed pitcher lasted just four seasons, with control being a major problem. Ishii led the majors with 106 walks his rookie year and then offered up 101 and 98, respectively the next two seasons. He ended with a 39-34 record, 4.44 ERA and 1.53 WHIP in his MLB career.

Akinori Otsuka, 2003, Padres, $300,000
This couldn't have turned out much better for the Padres. Not only did Otsuka post a sparkling 1.75 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 87 strikeouts in 77 1/3 innings in 2004, but he was also a valuable member of the 2005 playoff NL West champs. Then, the Padres traded him to the Rangers with Adam Eaton in a move that landed both Adrian Gonzalez and Chris Young (the pitcher). That's a pretty nice return for originally posting less than the current league minimum salary.

Shinji Mori, 2005, Rays, $750,000
The relief pitcher tore the labrum in his throwing shoulder and missed all of the 2006 season. He was then released by the Rays and returned to Japan, having never appeared in a major-league game.

Daisuke Matsuzaka, 2006, Red Sox, $51,111,111.11
Yes, "Dice-K" has been awful for the past three seasons and is now trying to recover from an injury. He might never be a valuable member of a rotation again, but he's still only 31 and did produce for two seasons. He finished fourth in Rookie of the Year voting in 2007, also pitching well in winning Game 3 of the World Series (which the Red Sox would sweep). Then in 2008, Dice-K went 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA and finished fourth in AL Cy Young voting. So, yeah, he's been really bad the past three years, but to call him a complete and utter bust would be a stretch. Over the duration of his deal, he's definitely been way overpaid, but was still valuable for two seasons.

Darvish Posting
Akinori Iwamura, 2006, Rays, $4.5 million
He was helpful for two seasons for the Rays, including when he was the starting second baseman on the 2008 American League champions. He hit .281 with a .354 on-base percentage during his Rays' career, but he lost his job in 2009 to Ben Zobrist and then fizzled in 2010 for both the Pirates and A's. Iwamura was released by the A's at the end of the season.

Kei Igawa, 2006, Yankees, $26,000,194
If you want to find a colossal waste of money in the posting system attached to a gigantic bust, this is the guy you're looking for. He's far more a "bust" than Dice-K. In 16 major-league appearances, Igawa went 2-4 with a 6.66 ERA (which just looks eerie, no?) and 1.76 WHIP. And get this, Igawa hadn't pitched in the majors since 2008, yet still made $4 million from the Yankees this past season as he played out the duration of his five-year contract. The left-handed pitcher appeared in four Triple-A games and 16 Double-A games. And the Yankees paid more than $45 million total for him. Wow.

Tsuyoshi Nishioka, 2010, Twins, $5.329 million
It was a season to forget for the skinny middle infielder. Nishioka broke his leg during the first series as Nick Swisher took him out on a potential double-play turn. When Nishioka healed up and came back, he was one of the worst offensive players in the majors, hitting .226/.278/.249. He was so bad, in fact, that the Twins went out and signed Jamey Carroll to be the everyday shortstop while Alexi Casilla will play second. So the posting fee and $9.25 million contract (which is a three-year deal) is for a backup that they definitely never want stepping in the box for any important at-bats. That's money not-very-well spent.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com