The Cincinnati Reds are reportedly the top candidate to land Japanese outfielder Shogo Akiyama according to a report from Nikkan Sports. I don’t know Japanese, so I’m relying on Google Translate, and the translation isn’t exactly the greatest – but you get the point of everything the original article is saying.
In early December at a winter meeting in San Diego, the United States, Akiyama entered the country and negotiated directly. One of them was Cincinnati-based Reds. In addition, Cubs seems to be unable to offer a large contract due to the aftermath of the luxury tax. Compared to the three teams including the Rays, the Reds seemed to have continued to show high ratings as mid-level players.
Mr. Casey Close, who has an agent contract, will continue to negotiate with four teams including Reds. However, it is highly possible that negotiations with Reds will accelerate after the Christmas holidays, and if agreement is reached, Reds Akiyama will be born soon.
The outfielder has spent time in center, left, and right fields in his career in Japan. Most of it has come in center during hit career, though. Cincinnati, who is the only team in Major League Baseball to never have a Japanese player, wouldn’t confirm whether or not they would meet with Akiyama at the winter meetings or not – but Nikkan Sports reporting says that they did. In mid-December, right as the winter meetings were coming to an end, it was reported that he was looking for a 2-year deal worth $10M.
Reports of his defense in center field weren’t great in 2019. But it seems with the signing of Mike Moustakas for second base, that Nick Senzel is going to remain in center as the starter – so Akiyama won’t need to play there on a daily basis. How exactly the left-handed hitter fits into the outfield could still be up in the air with Senzel, Jesse Winker, Aristides Aquino, Phillip Ervin, Mark Payton, Nick Martini, Josh VanMeter, and Travis Jankowski – some of whom will wind up back in Triple-A when the year begins.
What’s less of a question is what he would bring to the offense. While there’s certainly some lost in translation information of how a player will perform coming to the Majors from Japan, Shogo Akiyama has a long track record of hitting. Over the last five seasons he’s hit .321/.399/.497. And he’s done so while playing in every single game. Here’s how those five seasons look in total:
The Reds have power. They’ve got plenty of it. What they need is more guys on the bases. Shogo Akiyama has done nothing but get on base, a lot, over his career in Japan. Chances are pretty good that would continue. And if the rumor above about what kind of deal he’s seeking is correct, it’s almost criminal to not give it a shot.