Inbox: If signed, where will Nishioka play?

Inbox: If signed, where will Nishioka play?

MINNEAPOLIS -- Baseball's Hot Stove season is starting to heat up with the Winter Meetings set to kick off on Monday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. So it seemed like a good time to dig into some of your most recent questions. Here is the latest edition of the Twins Inbox.

If the Twins are able to sign Tsuyoshi Nishioka, would they put him in at shortstop or second base for the 2011 season?
-- Jacob G., Big Lake, Minn.

Nishioka can play both positions and has won the equivalent of a Japanese Gold Glove at each one of the spots. But as for which position he'll play if he signs with the Twins, that hasn't been revealed by the club just yet. The organization isn't willing to talk much about Nishioka since his rights still technically belong to the Chiba Lotte Marines back in Japan.

Right now, it would appear that Nishioka most likely could be slotted to play second base if he can agree to terms with the Twins on a contract, which is expected to happen. Scouts have questioned the strength of Nishioka's arm and many believe that he's best suited for second base, which is now officially open since Orlando Hudson declined the Twins' arbitration offer.

Of course, there are some things that still need to shake out in the Twins' infield situation. The club has to decide if it will tender a contract to shortstop J.J. Hardy on Thursday, which is the deadline for teams to tender 2011 contracts to unsigned players that are still under team control for next season. All indications point to Hardy being tendered a contract, although it's also possible that the team could do that and then trade him to another club. If Hardy ends up with another club for the 2011 season, then Alexi Casilla could perhaps be the starting shortstop. But really, we'll have to wait and see what the Twins say about Nishioka's position if they can get him signed to a deal.

What are the chances of the Twins refusing arbitration on Matt Capps and instead using the savings to sign someone like Wandy Rodriguez?
-- Brian S., Fergus Falls, Minn.

Twins general manager Bill Smith has made it clear that Capps will be tendered a contract on Thursday. Smith told the Washington Post in mid-November that it was "not at all" a decision as to whether Capps would get a contract, meaning that he'll definitely be back next season.

It's not a surprise that the Twins are indeed going to tender Capps. When the club traded away catching prospect Wilson Ramos as part of a deal for Capps at the Trade Deadline, Smith said one key to the trade was that the club would have Capps under its control through the 2011 season. While Capps is expected to get a raise from the $3.5 million he made last season following a successful 2010 campaign, he will also give the Twins a closing option should Joe Nathan need a little extra time to get himself back into form following Tommy John surgery. Capps has also said that he'll have no problems moving into a setup role when Nathan is ready to close.

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Rhett BollingerE-mail your query to MLB.com Twins beat reporter Rhett Bollinger for possible inclusion in a future Inbox column. Letters may be edited for brevity, length and/or content.
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What do you think is the likelihood of Carl Pavano coming back? He really became a huge part of the rotation last season for the Twins. Plus, he'd enable the Twins to keep a very solid veteran arm in the rotation to help the younger ones develop. Not to mention, it also would be a big help for the bench and lineup to see Jim Thome come back. Do you think both of them will come back to Minnesota in 2011?
-- Blake B., Edina, Minn.

Pavano has expressed a desire to re-sign with the Twins and the club has appeared to have interest in bringing him back as well. The big question is whether the Twins are going to be willing to meet Pavano's asking price, which is expected to be in the three-year range. And now that Jorge De La Rosa has agreed to a contract that will keep him in Colorado, Pavano appears to be the second-best starter on the free-agent market behind this winter's hottest commodity -- Cliff Lee. There are certainly a number of other teams that are interested in Pavano besides the Twins, so it will depend on whether the two sides can find a meeting point that satisfies them. Next week's Winter Meetings could perhaps give a little more indication of what it will take to sign Pavano and where he might go.

As for Thome, there still has been no official word yet as to whether the veteran slugger is going to return for his 21st season in the Majors. There is mutual interest from the Twins and Thome to have him back in Minnesota next year if he wants to continue to play. But that's another situation we'll have to watch play out over the winter.

I just read that the Twins signed a Minor Leaguer named Eric Hacker to a Major League contract. Who is he, and what are the Twin's plans for him?
-- Cal T., Northfield, Minn.

Hacker, 27, is a right-handed pitcher that spent the 2010 season with the Giants at their Triple-A Fresno affiliate. He went 16-8 with a 4.51 ERA in 29 starts, with 62 walks and 129 strikeouts over 165 innings. The Twins were supposedly one of a number of teams interested in Hacker, but what the starting pitcher wanted was a roster spot, so the club signed him to a Major League deal and put him on the 40-man roster.

A starting pitcher for pretty much his entire career, Hacker has posted a career ERA of 3.50 in parts of seven Minor League seasons. He'll give the Twins some starting-pitching depth but Hacker also could be an option for the bullpen. In his only Major League stint, three games with the Pirates in 2006, Hacker was used in a relief role. More will likely be known about Hacker's role once Spring Training rolls around.

This may not be Twins-orientated but it is about baseball. Rumor has it that there is going to be another Wild Card team added to the playoffs. Are they attempting to get better ratings?
-- Bryan B., Alta, Iowa

The chances of MLB adding another two Wild Card teams to the playoffs for 2011, or more likely, the 2012 postseason appear to be growing. The subject was a hot topic during the General Managers Meetings last month, and Commissioner Bud Selig said it will be discussed during the Winter Meetings next week by his 14-man Special Committee for On-Field Matters. The additional Wild Cards would bring the number of playoff teams from eight to 10. The two Wild Card teams in each league would then play a first-round series with each of the division winners getting a bye. There is still a lot that has to be discussed on the subject, but it's definitely something that looks like it could eventually happen.

What's the word on 2011 TwinsFest? When is it going to happen this year? I had a blast last year and got some great autographs.
-- Jack P., Hopkins, Minn.

This year's TwinsFest will take place from Jan. 28-30 at the Metrodome. It will be the same type of event as in years past. Current and former players will be on hand to sign autographs in addition to silent and live auctions of rare sports collectibles taking place among many other activities for fans. Tickets for this year's TwinsFest will go on sale Dec. 8.

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Kelly's Corner and follow her on Twitter at kellythesier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.