I like the signing of Yoshi Tsutsugo by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
I thought adding Tsutsugo was a good, low-risk move during the season, before he had his mini-breakout with the Pirates.
During his first tour with the team, Tsutsugo hit for a .268/.347/.535 line with eight homers in 144 plate appearances. Prior to that, he had a pretty abysmal start to his MLB career.
Tsutsugo had a lot of success in Japan for ten seasons, hitting 255 home runs during that time, with an .885 OPS. He came to the Rays on a two-year deal in 2020, but didn’t carry his offense over with him.
The debut with the Rays in 2020 saw Tsutsugo bat .197/.314/.395 with eight homers in 185 plate appearances. He had a stretch where he looked strong, which combined with his contract provided another opportunity in 2021.
The Rays brought him back, but he struggled again over 87 plate appearances. They sent him to the Dodgers, who tried him in the majors for 31 plate appearances, before sending him to Triple-A.
It was in Triple-A that Tsutsugo had his first run of success at the plate in America, batting .257/.361/.507 with 10 homers in 180 plate appearances.
The Pirates added him via waivers, and he continued the success in the big leagues, before hitting free agency at the end of his two-year deal.
The Pirates got Tsutsugo back on a one-year, $4 million deal. Obviously there are some long-term questions about the 30-year-old slugger, otherwise he would have received a bigger deal. But, those questions may have been answered in his time in 2021.
Tsutsugo was signed by the Rays with the hopes that his production from Japan would carry over to the majors. It did. It just took a season and a half and a few teams, plus a demotion to Triple-A, for that to happen.
There’s a question of sample size with his success. The run of success lasted 144 plate appearances in the majors with the Pirates, and 180 plate appearances in Triple-A with the Dodgers. By comparison, the struggles in the majors lasted for 303 plate appearances.
In the span of a regular season, Tsutsugo essentially struggled for half a year, then was sent down to Triple-A and righted the ship, before returning for the final quarter of the season and catching on in the big leagues.
You could make an argument that the Pirates just added a potential impact player at a huge discount. Tsutsugo rates better defensively at first base than Colin Moran, and if his offense from the end of 2021 returns, the Pirates will have a middle of the order slugger.
The deal is only for one year, similar to the deal for Jose Quintana to help boost the pitching staff. That means the impact of this deal will probably only be felt during a losing season.
That said, Quintana is a former 3-4 WAR pitcher and Tsutsugo has briefly shown an impact bat. If these moves go well, they might help boost the Pirates into the stratosphere of contending. That’s not bad for a combined $6 million dollars.