The Cincinnati Reds have come to an agreement with former Seibu Lions outfielder, Shogo Akiyama, first reported by Jon Heyman. Akiyama will become the first Japanese born player to play for the Cincinnati Reds. With the Reds signing of Akiyama, all 30 teams will have had a Japanese player. The deal is three years, $21M according to the Reds announcement on Twitter. C. Trent Rosecrans, from the Athletic, has reported that the Reds see Akiyama as a lefty bat who can hit at the top of the order, and play all three outfield positions. Akiyama, 31, has played predominately centerfield in Japan, but given his age, could be shifted into a corner outfield spot.
Shogo Akiyama joins an already crowded outfield in Cincinnati. With Nick Senzel, Aristides Aquino, Jesse Winker, and Phil Ervin all competing for spots, Akiyama adds another level of complexity. David Bell has shown that he is not afraid of platooning his players and Cincinnati will likely see a lot of that in 2020. One likely scenario is that Winker and Ervin platoon in left, Aquino and Akiyama platoon in right, and Senzel mans centerfield. Akiyama would serve as the backup centerfielder, sliding over to center when Senzel needs a day off.
Over the last three seasons in Japan, Akiyama has slashed .316/.398/.514 with 143 games played each season. While these numbers will most likely decrease some, due to the Japan being a small step behind in talent, Akiyama does show signs that he can produce in the Major Leagues. As shown by the OBP of almost .400, Akiyama can definitely get on base, a skill that typically translates well from overseas. Akiyama’s ability to get on base will be a welcomed addition to the Reds lineup, which ranked 12th in the NL in OBP in the 2019 season. Another good sign is that Akiyama doesn’t rely on the longball, while Akiyama does have some pop in his bat, it will more likely translate to gap power in the Majors. One final place in which Akiyama provides an upgrade is in durability. In 2019, the Reds struggled with health in the outfield, seeing Jesse Winker, Nick Senzel, and Scott Schebler all go out with long term injuries over the course of the season. Akiyama has played in 143 or more games every year except for one since 2013.
Shogo Akiyama is the Reds third big free agent addition this year, and based on their projected budget, they have more to spend. It’s been rumored that the Reds are in on Francisco Lindor, among others, and signing Akiyama gives them some more flexibility to include a Major League level outfielder to help get a deal done. Something to keep an eye on as the offseason continues.
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