The Twins have reached agreement on a contract with infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka, who will become the first player ever from the Japanese Leagues to sign with the club.
Terms of the deal are not known, but Si.com's John Heyman reports that it is a three-year deal.
5:05 p.m. UPDATE: A Twins source is claiming that the deal is not done yet. But they must have made enough progress that some people involved in the talks feel that it's near the goal line.
4:50 UPDATE: The Twins have traded catcher Jose Morales, who was out of options, to Colorado for lefthander Paul Bargas. Bargas. 22, was 5-4 with a 3.59 ERA for Class A Asheville. In 67.2 innings, he gave up 57 hits and walked 19 with 64 strikeouts. Back to regular programming....
Nishioka flew into town this morning and indicated to the media that a deal was close. ``Even my number has been decided,'' he said moments after landing at Minneapolis-St. Paul aiport.
Nishioka led the league with a .346 batting average last season and has started on Japan's teams that have appeared in the World Baseball Classic. He is a star in Japan, and about a dozen Japanese reporters were at the airport when he and his wife arrived. Some media even accompanied them on the flight.
Some Japanese reporters stationed in the United States were headed to the Twin Cities today to monitor the developments.
The Twins won the right to negotiate with Nishioka with a bid of more than $5 million. They had until Dec, 26 to sign him or they would have received that money back. The sides negotiated throughout the winter meetings last week and hammered out more details this week.
Nishioka is expected to take a physical and meet with the staff while in town. It's unclear when the Twins will hold a press conference to announce his signing, Some indications on Thursday were that it could be announced on Saturday.
Twins GM Bill Smith declined to provide many details during the negotiation process but he did send out an e-mail around midday.
His e-mail: ``...in response to the many requests, Tsuyoshi Nishioka and his wife arrived this morning via Delta Airlines from Japan and he will complete a series of physical examinations today and tomorrow.
``Contract Negotiations are on-going, but not complete.''