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Rays make a splash, sign Japanese slugger Tsutsugo

ST. PETERSBURG — The Tampa Bay Rays have finalized a two-year contract with Japanese slugger Yoshitomo Tsutsugo. The contract is reportedly worth $12MM and an additional $2.4MM as a posting fee.

Tsutsugo, 28, has played for the Yokohama Bay Stars since he was 18 years old. The left-handed power hitter has played left field, first base, designated hitter and even a little third base in his time in Japan. Over the past five seasons, Tsutsugo has slugged 163 home runs – including 44 in 2016 – and drove in 467 runs (this includes ten games he played in Dominican Winter League).

For his career, Tsutsugo holds a .284/.382/.525 slash line.

If you haven’t seen this guys power, which I assume you haven’t unless you’re absolutely obsessed with baseball, do yourself a favor and go on YouTube and watch how far he hits some of these pitches. It’s a real treat to watch. How will that translate? I truly don’t know. But, you can’t fake that kind of power, I don’t care if he was hitting a golf ball. The power is real.

It’s easy to speculate that the Rays plan for Tsutsugo will be to fit him in at first base and DH mainly, but with how creative Rays manager Kevin Cash is, you truly never know. No doubt their hope is to improve on an offense that finished seventh in the AL in runs in 2019. Adding OF Hunter Renfroe in the Tommy Pham deal with the Padres and now Tsutsugo should have them feeling pretty good about doing just that.

What’s next for the Rays Hot Stove?

It’s likely the Rays aren’t done adding pieces to improve the lineup. Losing Pham, Avisail Garcia, and Travis d’Arnaud won’t be easy to replace. Renfroe and Tsutsugo could easily slug 60-70 bombs between them. Throw in the production Austin Meadows and a full season of Brandon Lowe and Yandy Diaz may bring and maybe this offense can improve primarily on the returning players. Especially if catcher Mike Zunino can bounce back.

There are still rumblings of the Rays being in on Edwin Encarnacion or a reunion with C.J. Cron or Steven Souza Jr. Cron and Souza would join a crowded depth chart at 1B and OF respectively. Encarnacion would almost primarily DH and be a much higher price tag.

Expect the unexpected

Last year, the Rays went out and gave P Charlie Morton $15 million a year for two years with a third year option at the same price. Will they throw $10-15 million at another key free agent before spring training arrives? This front office has quietly proven to be one of the best in baseball. Never count out the idea that another big move is in the works. Or they may stay pat with where they’re at right now and still be in solid shape come February. Kevin Cash has to be pretty excited about what he’s currently got on the 40-man along with one of the best minor league squads in all of MLB – again.

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