The Rays announced Tuesday that they’ve designated struggling first baseman/outfielder Yoshi Tsutsugo for assignment. He’s in the second season of a two-year, $12MM contract that represented a relatively sizable investment for the cost-conscious Rays. They’ll now have a week to trade him, pass him through waivers or release him. Corner infielder Kevin Padlo is up from Triple-A Durham in his place.
Tsutsugo, 29, was a prominent slugger with the Yokohama DeNa BayStars in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball, batting .285/.382/.528 in parts of 10 seasons — including a .293/.402/.574 slash with 139 home runs in the four years leading up to his free agency.
He struggled in 2020 with the Rays but at least showed off some of that power, slugging eight long balls, five doubles and a triple in 185 trips to the plate last summer. That power has completely evaporated in 2021, however, as Tsutsugo has just four doubles and no home runs through his first 87 plate appearances.
Overall, Tsutsugo has come to the plate 272 times as a member of the Rays and managed only a .187/.292/.336 batting line with a 28.3 percent strikeout rate. To his credit, he’s walked at a hearty 12.5 percent clip, but that keen eye hasn’t helped him to tap into the obvious power that helped make him a star in Japan. With Ji-Man Choi nearing a return from the injured list and Tsutsugo’s struggles persisting, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times wrote yesterday that a touch decision on Tsutsugo seemed virtually “inevitable.”
It’s unlikely that the Rays will find a taker for Tsutsugo’s salary — he’s still owed $5.46MM through season’s end — though they could always try to orchestrate some kind of swap involving another bad contract. Such deals are tough to put together in a short window during the season, making it likelier that he’ll be placed on waivers or simply released.