The Cubs have met with Japanese free agent Shogo Akiyama, according to WSCR’s Bruce Levine.
Cubs and two other clubs have met with Japanese center fielder Shogo Akiyama according to industry source . He has attributes that have been missing on offense and defense . Career .376 OBP— Bruce Levine (@MLBBruceLevine) December 11, 2019
Akiyama would help the Cubs address multiple needs: center field and the leadoff spot. The 31-year-old holds a career .376 on-base percentage in Japan’s highest level of baseball, Nippon Professional Baseball.
Eleven Cubs led off at least once last season, posting a .212 average and .294 OBP (both last in MLB). In 143 games with the Saitama Seibu Lions, Akiyama hit .303 with a .392 OBP and 20 home runs.
Five Cubs played center field in 2019, posting a combined .232/.305/.388 (.693 OPS) slash line. Those figures were second-worst among all Cubs positional groups, behind second base. League-wide, Cubs center fielders ranked 20th in both average and OPS.
Money aside, adding Akiyama would all but rule out Nicholas Castellanos returning to the Cubs next season. The former would slot into center field, moving Jason Heyward back over to right. Heyward became the team’s full-time center fielder after the Cubs acquired Castellanos at the trade deadline.
The Cubs prefer to play Heyward in right, where he’s won five Gold Glove Awards in his career. From left to right, a Kyle Schwarber-Heyward-Castellanos outfield is formidable offensively, but together they make up a below-average defensive trio.
Akiyama would likely not cost much on the open market, but as Levine notes, there are other suitors for him beside the Cubs.