November 18: The posting formally occurred today, meaning the deadline to reach a deal is December 19th, per Joel Sherman of the New York Post (via Twitter).
November 15: The Yokohama DeNA BayStars of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball announced Friday that they have posted slugging left fielder/first baseman Yoshitomo Tsutsugo for Major League teams (link via the Japan Times). He now has 30 days to negotiate with MLB teams willing to pay the BayStars a release fee that is dependent on the size of the contract he signs.
Tsutsugo, who turns 28 on Nov. 26, has been one of Japan’s most prominent sluggers for the past four seasons, hitting a combined .293/.402/.574 with 139 home runs, 116 doubles, five triples, a 15.1 percent walk rate and a 20.4 percent strikeout rate. His best season came back in 2016, when he launched a career-high 44 home runs and slashed .322/.430/.680. It’s worth noting that Tsutsugo’s 2019 season was his weakest of the past four (.272/.388/.511, 29 home runs) and saw his strikeout rate climb to 25.3 percent.
There’s little doubting Tsutsugo’s raw power, but his ability to handle increased velocity, make consistent contact and contribute on the defensive side of the ball in MLB are less certain. Listed at 6’0″ and 209 pounds, Tsutsugo doesn’t run particularly well, and although he’s spent some time at third base in his career, most scouting reports on him agree that he’s limited to an outfield corner or first base at this point. FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen recently wrote of Tsutsugo that he’s a potential everyday player but one with “no margin for error because of defensive limitations,” noting that has questionable hands could make him a liability at first base. Sports Info Solutions’ Will Hoefer wrote in September that Tsutsugo has a plus throwing arm and “could be hidden in right field with strong positioning.”
The extent to which MLB clubs are sold on Tsutsugo’s defense will determine the interest in him. It’s easy to envision some NL clubs shying away — particularly those who already have a set first baseman locked into place. But Toronto general manager Ross Atkins has already acknowledged some interest in Tsutsugo, and the White Sox stand out as an obvious potential fit with both corner outfield and DH openings. Speculating a bit further, any of the Mariners, Tigers, Royals or Rangers could find a way to work him into a first base/DH/corner outfield rotation. The Marlins, with uncertainty at first base and in the outfield corners, are an on-paper fit in the NL. There’s certainly a case to be made that any rebuilding club could give Tsutsugo a look and hope to land a relatively affordable piece who can help turn things around or emerge as a trade asset.
Under the current posting system, a Major League team interested in Tsutsugo would owe the BayStars 20 percent of the first $25MM guaranteed to him, plus 17.5 percent of the next $25MM, plus 15 percent of any dollars spent north of $50MM. That release fee is on top of the guarantee itself. Contract options and performance incentives, once unlocked or triggered, are subject to a supplemental 15 percent release fee. For minor league deals, MLB clubs pay out 25 percent of the player’s signing bonus, and the player’s salary upon being added to the 25-man roster is subject to a supplemental posting fee.
Tsutsugo, who is being represented by Wasserman, has a finite free-agent window due to the 30-day nature of the posting system, so within a few days of the conclusion of next month’s Winter Meetings (from Dec. 8-12), we’ll know if he’s coming to MLB and where he’ll be playing.