Report: Rays Sign Japanese Star Yoshitomo Tsutsugo to 2-Year, $12M Contract

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistDecember 13, 2019

TOKYO, JAPAN - MARCH 15:  Outfielder Yoshitomo Tsutsugoh #25 of Japan runs after hitting a solo homerun to make it 0-1 in the bottom of the sixth inning during the World Baseball Classic Pool E Game Six between Israel and Japan at the Tokyo Dome on March 15, 2017 in Tokyo, Japan.  (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)
Matt Roberts/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Rays reportedly reached an agreement Friday to sign Japanese slugger Yoshitomo Tsutsugo to a two-year, $12 million contract after paying a $2.4 million posting fee to the Yokohama DeNA BayStars.

Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reported the deal's financial details.

Tsutsugo, who needed to sign before Dec. 19 to complete the MLB transition this offseason, also generated interest from the Los Angeles Dodgers before opting to join Tampa, per Jon Morosi of the MLB Network.

The 28-year-old outfielder earned five straight Nippon Professional Baseball All-Star selections for Yokohama starting in 2015. He made his debut for the Central League club at the age of 18 and has since developed into one of Japanese baseball's top power threats.

He's coming off a 2019 campaign where he posted a .272/.388/.511 triple-slash line with 29 home runs across 131 games. He's recorded 185 homers over the past six years, including a career-high 44 longballs in 2016.

"I'm not feeling carefree about this. There is a sense of anxiety, of course, and excitement as well," Tsutsugo told reporters in November. "We'll find out soon enough how it turns out. All I can do is prepare as well as I can."

Although most of his playing time in Japan came in the outfield, he's also gained limited experience at both corner infield spots (first base and third base). Signing with an American League club also gives manager Kevin Cash the option to utilize his pop as a designated hitter.

He'll provide a boost to a Tampa offense that ranked 21st in MLB with 217 home runs in 2019.

The Rays already feature Austin Meadows and Hunter Renfroe at the corners in the outfield with defensive wizard Kevin Kiermaier in center. So the team will likely start Tsutsugo at DH, though he could shift to first or third if Ji-Man Choi or Yandy Diaz falter.