Freely* Available Talent: Tsuyoshi Nishioka

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The once-heralded Japanese infielder was a major disappointment with the Twins, but is Milwaukee the right place for him to turn his career around?

Freely* Available Talent is a recurring feature here on BCB, looking at players who other teams are making available that could potentially help this team.

The news: Over the weekend Japanese infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka agreed to forfeit the remaining $3.25 million left on his contract with the Twins and was released.

Nishioka is 28 years old and had two dreadful seasons in Minnesota. He played just six games before breaking his leg in a collision at second base in 2011 and wasn't the same after, hitting .226/.278/.249. He appeared in just three major league games in 2012 and played the rest of the season for AAA Rochester, where his offensive performance (.258/.315/.324 over 101 games) was also underwhelming.

Before coming to the US, however, Nishioka hit a combined .297/.370/.424 over his last four seasons in Japan. The Twins paid $5.329 million to his Japanese team just for the right to negotiate with him in November of 2010. Nishioka was primarily a shortstop in Japan and with the Twins last season, but played second base in the minors this year.

Could he help this team? I don't know. Nishioka has been dreadful since coming to the US and there's a strong chance he won't be any better for his next team. The Brewers also don't have an immediate need for a middle infielder, with Jean Segura and Jeff Bianchi both under team control and Rickie Weeks signed long term.

With that said, Milwaukee makes sense as a location where Nishioka could resurrect his career. The Brewers are less than a year removed from signing Norichika Aoki, which turned out to be one of the offseason's best moves. Aoki (and presumably translator Kosuke Inaji) will be back for 2013 and it's possible having them around could help another struggling Japanese player become comfortable and make the transition to being a productive major leaguer.

Nishioka isn't a no-talent hack: He's a guy who two years ago was good enough to have teams bidding against each other for the right to negotiate with him. The first two years of his US career were a disaster, but if he could get back to being the type of player he was in Japan he'd be very useful as a depth player.

What do I think the Brewers should do? I'd offer him a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training and the opportunity to opt out if he's not in the majors by midseason. You can never have too many middle infield options (as we've seen first hand over the last few years), and this is a potential very low risk/high reward deal. He's got higher upside than a guy like Cesar Izturis, who signed a similar deal last winter.

The worst case scenario here would be Nishioka failing to show improvement, costing the Brewers something like $100-$200,000 and getting released again. It's a risk I'd be willing to take for a guy that isn't that far removed from being a valued commodity.

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