Pittsburgh Pirates: Estimating The Contracts For Top International Free Agents

The Pittsburgh Pirates should be aggressive on the international free agent market, but what could some of the top targets make this off-season?
Aug 4, 2021; Yokohama, Japan; Team Japan pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto (17) throws a pitch against
Aug 4, 2021; Yokohama, Japan; Team Japan pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto (17) throws a pitch against / Yukihito Taguchi-USA TODAY Sports
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Kazuma Okamoto

Here is an option for the Pittsburgh Pirates to fix their first base hole now. Kazuma Okamoto is one of Japan's best sluggers. The corner infielder is posting career-best numbers in nearly every stat imaginable. Okamoto has mostly played third base throughout his career but has been a regular over at first base, as well as in the outfield corners at other times. 

Okamoto is slashing .278/.374/.585. His OBP and batting average are currently the second-best of his career, but his SLG% is by far the best, with a Grand-Canyon-sized gap between it and second best. Okamato has also topped his career high in home runs at 41. Okamoto has a respectable 18.9% strikeout rate but also has walked at a 12.2% pace. Okamoto has slugged at least 30 home runs each of the last five seasons. He is a power-threat through and through. His .307 isolated slugging percentage is well above his career average rate of .226. 

Okamoto has 752 games played at third base, the position he's manned most often throughout his career. But he also has 361 games at first base. He also sees time in the outfield and has 149 games played. Okamoto has more than enough experience at first base for a team to pursue him with the intent of making him an option there. He has split his time nearly evenly between first base and third base this season.

The comparison I am about to make is not going to sit well with Pirates fans. But if we are looking at what a potential contract for Okamoto would look like, you should turn to Yoshi Tsutsugo. In terms of NBP numbers, they are comparable. Tsutsugo slashed .285/.382/.528 with a 20.8% strikeout rate and 13.3% walk rate. Okamoto has hit .272/.357/.519 with a 10.6% walk rate and an 18.7% strikeout rate. Like Okamoto, Tsutsugo played all four infield and outfield corners in Japan.

Tsutsugo struggled in the United States, and aside from a good second half with the Pirates in 2021, he didn't do much in the Majors. Of course, you have to take it on a case-by-case basis. Just because one Japanese power hitter struggled in MLB doesn't mean all Japanese power hitters are going to struggle. It would be very narrow-minded to think that way.

But given similar production in Japan and the fact that Okamoto could sign going into the same age as Tsutsugo did in 2019-2020, what kind of contract could we be looking at? Tsutsugo signed a two-year/$12 million deal. If or when Okamoto gets posted, I think that's the kind of contract he will probably be looking at.