Yoshitomo Tsutsugo is drawing interest from multiple clubs -- mostly in the American League -- with less than two weeks remaining in his posting window to sign with a Major League team.
Sources say the Blue Jays, White Sox, Twins and Tigers are among the teams with interest in Tsutsugo, the left-handed power hitter posted last month by the Yokohama DeNA BayStars of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball.
Tsutsugo, 28, has been compared to Kyle Schwarber as a hitter and defender. Tsutsugo primarily plays left field, but he has experience at first base. He's averaged about 33 home runs per season over the last five years with the BayStars.
Scouts question whether Tsutsugo has the range to be an average defensive left fielder in the Majors. However, one executive said Thursday that Tsutsugo’s powerful bat is enough to keep him in the lineup every day, although perhaps at different positions. By signing with an AL club, Tsutsugo would have the opportunity to move among left field, first base and designated hitter depending on matchups and defensive needs.
Tsutsugo is part of one of the all-time largest classes moving from NPB to MLB in a single offseason. Center fielder Shogo Akiyama is an international free agent, while second baseman Ryosuke Kikuchi and right-hander Shun Yamaguchi have been posted.
In Tsutsugo’s case, the BayStars will receive a release fee equal to 20 percent of the first $25 million in Tsutsugo’s MLB guarantee, with the BayStars able to claim smaller percentages for values beyond that.
Tsutsugo played on United States soil as recently as the 2017 World Baseball Classic, when his 1.113 OPS was the highest on Team Japan.
The Blue Jays are perhaps the best fit for Tsutsugo, as first baseman/designated hitter Rowdy Tellez is the only returning left-handed hitter on Toronto’s roster to hit 20 or more home runs in 2019.
The White Sox likely won’t attempt to sign Tsutsugo immediately, while waiting for decisions from free agents Nicholas Castellanos and Marcell Ozuna.
Tsutsugo could serve as the Tigers’ primary DH if Miguel Cabrera’s offseason strength and conditioning program enables Cabrera to play in the field on a more regular basis. The Twins, meanwhile, have an opening at first base after C.J. Cron was non-tendered.