The Blue Jays are close to signing first baseman Yoshi Tsutsugo to a minor league contract, interim manager John Schneider indicated to reporters Monday (Twitter link via Kaitlyn McGrath of The Athletic). Yuki Yamada of Japan’s Sankei Sports first reported that Tsutsugo was likely to land with Toronto on a minor league pact.
The 30-year-old Tsutsugo began the 2022 season on a one-year, $4MM deal with the Pirates but was cut loose by Pittsburgh last week after hitting just .171/.249/.229 with a pair of homers and four doubles through 193 plate appearances. That output was miles from the .268/.347/.535 slash turned in by Tsutsugo through 144 plate appearances down the stretch with the Pirates in 2021. The Pirates are on the hook for the remainder of his salary, so the Jays would only owe Tsutsugo the prorated league minimum for any time spent on the Major League roster.
Once a star-caliber slugger in with Japan’s Yokohama DeNA BayStars — when he posted 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 in his final four NPB campaigns from 2016-19 — Tsutsugo has struggled in the big leagues. Originally signed by the Rays to a two-year, $12MM contract back in Dec. 2019, Tsutsugo has drawn plenty of walks throughout his big league tenure (11.6%) but has struggled with strikeouts (26.9%) while showing a particular susceptibility to sliders.
Tsutsugo likely amounts to little more than a depth addition for the Jays at this point, though with a nice showing in Buffalo he could emerge as an option to give Toronto an extra left-handed bat when they pick up another couple roster spots in September. Following today’s DFA of outfielder Bradley Zimmer, the Blue Jays currently have just three left-handed hitters on the Major League roster — Raimel Tapia, Cavan Biggio, Jackie Bradley Jr. — none of whom are especially productive hitters. Tapia is the only one logging regular at-bats right now, and he figures to continue doing so in center field for at least a few days, with George Springer being eased back in as a designated hitter following today’s activation from the injured list (Twitter link via Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi).
The righty-heavy Jays have still been one of baseball’s most productive clubs against right-handed pitching, but there’s little harm in picking up a lefty bat with some thump and taking a low-cost look at him in Triple-A in order to see if they can help to coax some more production out of his swing later this season.