Dodgers pick up IF/OF Tsutsugo from Rays

May 16th, 2021

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers continued their busy Saturday, acquiring infielder/outfielder from the Rays in exchange for cash considerations or a player to be named later.

Tsutsugo, 29, was designated for assignment by Tampa Bay on Tuesday. The Dodgers jumped on the opportunity to complete the trade, as opposed to allowing him to clear waivers. The Rays will pick up most of the $7 million owed to Tsutsugo this season. In order to clear room on the 40-man roster, the Dodgers moved Edwin Ríos, who will miss the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury, to the 60-day injured list.

With Rios out for the season and AJ Pollock out for at least a couple of weeks with a hamstring injury, the Dodgers needed another bat off the bench, at least until they wait for Cody Bellinger and Zach McKinstry to return from injury.

The Dodgers have reportedly come to terms with future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols, though the club has not confirmed the deal. But even with Pujols, Tsutsugo gives the Dodgers another left-handed-hitting option off the bench to pair with Matt Beaty, who will handle most of the responsibilities in left field with Pollock out. Tsutsugo can also play left field, as well as third and first base.

Offensively, Tsutsugo has a lot of power. He was one of the best sluggers in the history of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball league during his time with the Yokohama BayStars. That’s what convinced the Rays to give him a two-year, $12 million deal in 2019. Other teams were interested in Tsutsugo then, including the Dodgers.

That power, however, hasn’t transferred over to MLB for the most part.

For starters, the 2020 season was about as difficult for Tsutsugo as any other player in the league. He was adjusting to cultural differences between Japan and the United States, all while trying to figure out Major League pitching. Then the COVID-19 shutdown happened, and he returned to Japan. Upon coming back to the U.S., it was perhaps unfair to ask Tsutsugo to figure things out during the 60-game sprint.

This season, Tsutsugo has still not put it all together, hitting .167 with no homers. Most of that has to do with his struggles against velocity. Tsutsugo is hitting .196 with 13 strikeouts against fastballs this season.

It’s another low-risk, high-reward acquisition for the Dodgers as they continue to navigate through their injuries.