Japan’s Yokohama DeNA BayStars announced today that they intend to make star corner outfielder Yoshitomo Tsutsugo available through the NPB-MLB posting system. Jason Coskrey of the Japan Times was among those to cover the news via Twitter. Once he’s formally posted, which will occur between November 1st and December 5th, Tsutsugo will have thirty days to negotiate a contract with any of the thirty MLB teams. He’ll be represented by the Wasserman Agency, Mark Feinsand of MLB.com tweets.
The 27-year-old left-handed-hitting slugger is a ten-year veteran of Nippon Professional Baseball. Accordingly, he won’t be subject to the restrictions on international signings that limited the earning potential for countrymate Shohei Ohtani and certain other younger and/or less experienced players.
Under the new posting system, which went into effect after Ohtani’s signing, the team that agrees to sign Tsutsugo will also need to pay a release fee that is determined by reference to the contract. Teams pay 20% of guaranteed money up to $25MM, 17.5% for promised cash between $25MM and $50MM, and then 15% of anything beyond. There are also some provisions that allow for additional release fees in the event that certain non-guaranteed earnings are triggered.
Tsutsugo has long been on the MLB radar. He has been among the most effective hitters in Japanese baseball since fully establishing himself at the nation’s highest level in 2014. Since that time, Tsutsugo has devoured NPB pitching. In over four thousand career plate appearances, he’s a .284/.382/.525 hitter with 205 long balls.
This past season wasn’t Tsutsugo’s most dominant, as he provided the BayStars with 557 plate appearances of .272/.388/.511 hitting and launched 29 long balls. That’s a far sight shy of his personal-best 2016 output (.322/.430/.680, 44 home runs) but still plenty productive. Indeed, he was the sixth-best hitter in the NPB by measure of OPS.
There ought to be a fair amount of interest in Tsutsugo among MLB teams, though he’s not generally regarded as a quality fielder and isn’t exceptionally youthful. The most direct market competition will likely come from other left-handed-hitting, power-oriented corner bats such as Corey Dickerson and Kole Calhoun. It remains to be seen whether Tsutsugo will be targeted as a first-division regular, solid platoon candidate, or something in between.