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Rays DFA Yoshi Tsutsugo

Tsutsugp was a star of the NPB for a decade. Will he ever find success in MLB?

Houston Astros v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

The Rays have reached a difficult decision today in designating for assignment Yoshi Tsutsugo.

Once one of the best players in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball league as a ten-year veteran of the BayStars, Tsutsugo never got the chance to properly transition to Major League Baseball due to the various disruptions of the ongoing global pandemic.

In the highest leverage moments of the 2020 season, Rays manager Kevin Cash opted to use Joey Wendle at third base in the playoffs, including the World Series, and Wendle has yet to relinquish his hold on the position, leading Rays position players both in overall production (1.0 fWAR accrued in 2021), on defense (4 OAA in 2021, sixth highest in baseball thus far) and at the plate (130 wRC+ leads all Rays players). By comparison, Tsutsugo has team worst marks overall (-0.5 fWAR) and on offense (40 wRC+).

Tsutsugo was signed to a sizeable two-year, $12 million deal following the trade of left fielder Tommy Pham to the San Diego Padres. During the offseason I promised to continue checking in on that trade off in the lineup. Thus far Pham has a -0.2 fWAR and 58 wRC+ as he’s continued to play through injury. By comparison, Tsutsugo has managed to do even worse without the excuse of dealing with calf issues or stab wounds.

At this point, it’s unclear whether whether Tsutsugo’s major league career will continue.

Per the rules governing international free agents, Yoshi will have the opportunity to consider whether an assignment to Triple-A is an acceptable outcome, or if he wants to test free agency. Meanwhile, the Rays will see if they can preempt that decision by trading him to another club.