Pittsburgh Pirates: Yoshi Tsutsugo& the Sunk Cost Fallacy

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - SEPTEMBER 01: Yoshi Tsutsugo #32 of the Pittsburgh Pirates reacts after striking out against the Chicago White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field on September 01, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - SEPTEMBER 01: Yoshi Tsutsugo #32 of the Pittsburgh Pirates reacts after striking out against the Chicago White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field on September 01, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
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Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Yoshi Tsutusgo has become a sunk cost to the team and only creating an unnecessary roadblock for young players.

The Pittsburgh Pirates signed Yoshi Tsutsugo to a low-risk, low-cost one-year deal. The first baseman was coming off a great second half with the Bucs, where he hit .883 OPS, .372 wOBA, and 134 wRC+ through his last 144 plate appearances of the season. Plus, he had struck out a whole lot less than he did the year prior. It made sense for the Pirates to take the low-risk chance on the former Japanese League star.

The Pirates didn’t have an immediate answer at first base, the designated hitter would be returning to the National League the next season, and for only $4 million, it was a low-cost bet. However, the Pirates have reached the worst-case scenario with Tsutsugo. Defcon 1 has been reached.

Tsutsugo is hitting .117/.281/.257 with a .251 wOBA and 60 wRC+ on the year. Not only has he been 40% worse than the league average hitter this year, but his defense at first base leaves a whole lot more to be desired. Tsutsugo has -2 DRS and -9.4 UZR/150. So why haven’t the Pirates released or DFA’d him yet? Well, it’s because they’re paying him.

But that’s not a good reason to keep him on the 40-man or 26-man roster. There’s a thing called the sunk cost fallacy. It’s when someone is reluctant to move on from an investment even when that investment is clearly no longer worth it. The Pirates have reached this with Tsutsugo.

The Pittsburgh Pirates will have to pay Tsutsugo one way or another. It doesn’t matter if they release him tomorrow, it doesn’t matter if they release him in August, it doesn’t matter if they let him spend the rest of the year on the team and let him hit free agency. MLB contracts are guaranteed. The Pirates will have to pay Yoshi his $4 million in total in 2022. The only possible way for them to get out from under that is to find a trade partner who is willing to take on the rest of the contract.

The thing is, nobody is going to touch his contract because it’s a sunk cost. Yoshi is a 30-year-old with a sub-80 wRC+ and plays the least premium position on the diamond. Not only does he play the least premium position, but he plays it poorly. The only way they’d shed his contract through trade is by attaching a prospect. But that would be more costly than outright releasing him, and there is no way Ben Cherington and co. are about to trade any prospects after building up the farm system so much, just to get a guy on a one-year deal off the payroll. It’s worth more in the long and short run to keep Tsutsugo than to salary dump him with a prospect.

Next. Cruz, Martin Homer Again. dark

The Pirates need to accept Tsutsugo’s contract as a sunk cost and move on. They’re going to have to pay him $4 million one way or another, whether that’s next week or at the end of the year. They need to try Mason Martin in the major leagues at least, and at this point, Tsutsugo is just an unnecessary roadblock for the first base prospect.

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