Tag Archives: Joel Wolfe

Sugano’s decision

Yomiuri Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano will be back in Japan for 2021, and though he probably is not the best pitcher in Japan right now as some in the U.S. media have labeled him in the crush for hyperbola, he’s not far from the best.

I speculated on some of the reasons why a Japanese star should not just leap into a major league deal, and Sugano himself cited the direction MLB is going during the coronavirus pandemic.

On Sunday, Japan got a bit of perspective.

“It wasn’t something I could be 100 percent satisfied,” Sugano told Japan’s media.

His agent, Joel Wolfe, had a media availability, a portion of which was aired on TV in Japan and that clip was then shared on Twitter.

  • Wolfe: “It was very tough.”
  • How many teams made a clear offer?
  • Wolfe: “Six. He had several four-year offers, three-year offers and two-year offers.. Our expectation and his expectation what a fair contract was a bit different. And I ended up having to call that general manager with two minutes to go. “
  • Wolfe: “He was able to draw on his relationships with (Yu) Darvish and (Kenta) Maeda. They all offered so much assistance and advice. I don’t think he will ever regret…”
  • Wolfe: “I think the major league teams are really going to regret…”

Although Wolfe implied money kept the two sides apart, it could well be that the money offered was not enough to outweigh Sugano’s concerns about playing in the States now.

Waseda University manager Satoru Komiyama, for years the workhorse of the Lotte Marines rotation, and briefly a New York Met, threw in his two cents. In a Facebook comment, he said considerations of money shouldn’t matter if one really desires to work from a major league mound. He suggested that agents, not players, were the ones who made a big deal about contract value.

Here’s a Kyodo News‘ 2019 interview with Komiyama

When veteran Japanese stars take pay cuts to play in the majors, or who turn their back on minor-league deals to return to lucrative contracts with their old teams in Japan, there are questions.

I have questioned the quick U-turns of Takashi Toritani, Nobuhiro Matsuda and Ryosuke Kikuchi. Each espoused a great desire to play abroad, but at the same time prioritized a happy exit from their Japanese clubs. None of them would negotiate past a certain date, they said, because that would leave their clubs back home in a bind about whether or not they would be available for the upcoming season.

To be sure, Matsuda’s case was unusual. A Japanese attorney negotiating his next contract with the Hawks complicated his American agent’s negotiations by talking directly to the San Diego Padres’ people on the ground in Fukuoka.

Every deal, however, is unique in its way because every player has different concerns for his career, for his life off the field and for his family. It’s probably never JUST about money.

Sugano really wanted to play in the majors. Either that or he’s been really good at making people think that for years.

On Sunday, SoftBank Hawks chairman Sadaharu Oh, who would have given some part of his anatomy for a chance to play in the majors when he was young, told TBS network’s Sunday Morning, “He absolutely wanted to go.”

“I believe he wanted to see how well his pitching skill would play in America.”

Sugano has reportedly received a four-year offer from Yomiuri with annual opt-outs allowing him to go a year from now if he likes, although he could also sign a one-year deal and file for international free agency if he can compile the necessary service time.

“Is next year the best chance for him given his age? I think so,” Oh said. “But I think he really wanted to do it now.”

Sugano leaves for U.S.

Yomiuri Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano traveled to the United States on Friday to meet with agent Joel Wolfe, Sponichi Annex reported on Saturday, citing a source.

The 31-year-old Sugano, the pick of available players moving from Japan this winter, has long expressed a desire to play in the majors, but has also voiced concern about playing there in 2021 with the coronavirus pandemic still raging.

His deadline to sign a contract after being posted by the Giants of Japan’s Central League is Thursday, 5 p.m., EST.

Tsutsugoing my way, to Rays

<strong><a rel=Yoshitomo Tsutsugo” class=”wp-image-5005″ width=”506″ height=”674″/>
Yoshitomo Tsutsugo has his eyes on the future.

After agent Joel Wolfe said the decision was down to three teams, the Dodgers were reported as one, while the Blue Jays had been connected in the media by people who thought he would be a good fit. And though the Rays were not mentioned, in retrospect they seem the best possible fit.

Tampa Bay has a history of committing to players whose value is low because other teams had not committed to them. That isn’t the case with Tsutsugo but it was a valid question considering the tough adjustments ahead of him.

My Tsutsugo profile suggests, according to analytic site Delta Graphs, that Tsutsugo is only a better-than-average fastball hitter in Japan, meaning he definitely has work to do against velocity that is a little higher than what he was accustomed to in Japan.

His outfield defense appears to have plateaued at league average in left field a few years ago and has gotten worse since. Because of who he is, and his attention to detail in everything he does, the most likely guess for this decline is the loss of a few steps and the effect of a couple of small nagging injuries over the past three seasons.

A different kind of cat

But Tsutsugo will give you everything you ask for and more that you didn’t know you needed from a player through his character and team-building skills. Despite being a newcomer to MLB, he will — like Hideki Matsui did with the Yankees — set an example for others about how to handle yourself.

Wolfe said the teams Tsutsugo worked out for this past week were impressed by his soft hands and his willingness to do whatever is necessary to be better. This, Wolfe said, was highlighted by his putting himself in uncomfortable situations, by playing ball in the Dominican Republic and grabbing his infield glove to help his team at third base — a position he hadn’t played at in over seven years.

He is also a rare individual among Japanese ballplayers in his willingness to endure potential controversy by taking a stand. This year, he published a book attacking Japan’s youth baseball culture as wrong-headed and damaging and has been spending his winters working with children, encouraging them to enjoy the game in a system that too often values winning at all costs for even the youngest and least-experienced children and puts their bodies at risk.

The kotatsu league: Tsutsugo works out for 3 clubs in California

DeNA BayStars slugger Yoshitomo Tsutsugo’s priority for choosing a new team is playing time, agent Joel Wolfe said Wednesday at the baseball winter meetings in San Diego, according to Kyodo News.

“He is not simply looking for the most money,” Wolfe said. “He wants to be in a baseball environment where he can showcase his talents, and prove that Japanese hitters can successfully be productive in Major League Baseball.”

According to the agent, the two-hour workouts left teams impressed by Tsutsugo’s versatility and willingness to put himself in challenging situations such as playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic and playing third base at the drop of a hat because his team needed him to.

Agent Joel Wolfe describes Yoshitomo Tsutsugo’s activities while in California.

The agent said Tsutsugo, who has been working out with major leaguer Nolan Arenado at a facility owned by the Colorado Rockies’ Gold Glove third baseman.

Tsutsugo will have to sign a contract by next week, but Wolfe said he expects a decision a few days ahead of that to account for any potential hangups.

“In baseball we expect the unexpected,” Wolfe said.

The jballallen.com profile of Tsutsugo can be found HERE.