According to Jason Coskrey of the Japan Times, Yokohama DeNA BayStars’ star slugger Yoshitomo Tsutsugo will be made available through the NPB-MLB posting system this winter. Tsutsugo will be posted during the window of No. 1 to Dec. 5 and he’ll have 30 days to negotiate a contract with any of the 30 Major League teams.
— Jason Coskrey (@JCoskrey) October 8, 2019
Tsutsugo would be an interesting fit for the Blue Jays. He’s a power-hitting, left-handed bat who can first, third, and left field. Something we’ve seen a lot with this front office is a desire to have versatile players. This strategy played a key role in the hiring of Charlie Montoyo, who spent time with the Tampa Bay Rays, an organization famous for moving players all around the diamond.
As of right now, Rowdy Tellez is the Blue Jays’ starting first baseman in 2020. Justin Smoak is set to become a free agent and he could come back on a cheap, short-term deal, but, given his age, you could see why the Jays would prioritize playing somebody younger in that position. Tellez has shown some promise, but his .227/.293/.449 slash line and 29 walks to 116 strikeouts in his first full season weren’t exactly awe-inspiring.
Tsutsugo, who turns 28 years old in November, is a 10-year veteran of Nippon Professional Baseball. Last season, he slashed a .272/.388/.511 line with 29 homers. It was a bit of a down year from what he did in 2018. That season, Tsutsugo slashed a .295/.393/.596 line with 38 homers and an impressive 80 walks to 107 strikeouts. His best season came back in 2016 when he slashed an insane .322/.430/.680 line with 44 home runs.
Of course, the issue with signing Japanese players is the pricetag. Last winter, the rules around NPB-MLB posting compensation changed. Compensation given from Major League clubs is now directly be tied to the contract signed.
- For Major League contracts with a total guaranteed value of $25 million or less, the release fee will be 20% of the total guaranteed value of the contract;
- For Major League contracts with a total guaranteed value between $25,000,001 and $50 million, the release fee will be: (i) 20% of the first $25 million of the guaranteed total (i.e. $5 million) plus (ii) 17.5% of the total guaranteed value exceeding $25 million;
- For Major League contracts with a total guaranteed value of $50,000,001 or more, the release fee will be: (i) 20% of the first $25 million of the guaranteed total (i.e. $5 million) plus (ii) 17.5% of the total guaranteed value between $25,000,001 and $50 million (i.e. $4,375,000) plus (iii) 15% of the total guaranteed value exceeding $50 million
For a comparable, we can look back at Yusei Kikuchi, another Japanese star in his late-20s who inked a big contract with the Seattle Mariners last winter. Kikuchi agreed to a contract that guarantees $56 million and includes club options that could make it worth $109 million over seven seasons. As a result, Seattle had to pay a posting fee of $10.275 million and could be on the hook for $7.95 million more if the club options are exercised.
The fit is certainly interesting, but it’s difficult to say if it would be worth the financial commitment from the Blue Jays at this point. The last thing you want is to be on the hook for a massive deal for a guy who ends up becoming a brand new version of Brandon Drury.