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Milwaukee Brewers free agent targets: Yoshitomo Tsutsugo

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Might the Japanese power hitter be an option at 1B and LF?

World Baseball Classic - Championship Round - Game 2 - United States v Japan Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

If there was a 28-year old free agent who could play left field, first base, and third base in a pinch who had the following offensive numbers, would you be interested?

Unfortunately those numbers were not put up in MLB, they were put up in Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), which is the major leagues in Japan. We know that NPB is high quality baseball that approximates at the very least to American AAA baseball if not better. We also know that a lot of very good players have come from this league. The player that put up these numbers is Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, and I am not the only writer that thinks Milwaukee should ponder signing the Japanese slugger.

Eno Sarris suggests, “... the best fit should be in Milwaukee. The Brewers did well with their last first baseman from abroad when they signed Eric Thames from Korea, but moved on when the price tag jumped to $7.5 million in his third year. They could sign a similar deal with Tsutsugo, get younger, and save a few million that they can spend on the rotation. He’d move to a hitter’s park and perhaps Ryan Braun could form a platoon with him at first (he also plays left field) if he struggles against lefties.”

In Sarris’ article, which can be read in The Athletic, he pulls from Clay Davenport’s work. He is well known for translating international statistics to what would be a MLB player. The projections look like:

As an FYI, these projections are coming off a down year for Tsutsugo, which might mean there is more upside for this player than is projected here. Nonetheless, according to Sarris, the MLB players that Tsutsugo compares to in terms of projections are JD Davis, Ji-Man Choi, and Brandon Belt.

Those are not bad players, especially if functioning in a platoon. Tsutsugo’s left handed power might just be suited for Milwaukee’s ballpark as well. That just might mean the player comparisons above are inappropriately low. In other words, he could be better. The scouting report on him is that power is his calling card, but it could be very one-dimensional as an “all-or-nothing” type of player. As the article suggests, Yasmany Tomas comes to mind. There might just be too much variance and risk, but his power could play big in Miller Park.

While Milwaukee does not have the seeming appeal to some Asian players like teams on the West Coast, Tsutsugo has already indicated that he is open to playing for any team in MLB. If Milwaukee were to sign him, they would also need to pay a release fee to the Yokohama BayStars, that would be determined by the relative size of the contract. The MLB team that signs this slugger will pay Yokohama 20% of guaranteed money up to $25MM, 17.5% for promised cash between $25MM and $50MM, and then 15% of anything beyond. There are also some provisions that allow for additional release fees in the event that certain non-guaranteed earnings are triggered. Tsutsugo has until December 19 (Yokohama formally posted him on November 18) to finalize a contract with a major league team.

David Stearns has been active on the international market during his tenure in Milwaukee, signing Eric Thames out of Korea and getting in on the bidding for players like Shohei Ohtani and Miles Mikolas before they eventually signed elsewhere. So do not be surprised if Milwaukee is the team that lands Tsutsugo, or is at least involved in negotiations for him.