Shogo Akiyama

Reds officially sign Shogo Akiyama, a Cubs free agent target

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AP

Reds officially sign Shogo Akiyama, a Cubs free agent target

Monday, the Reds announced they’ve signed center fielder Shogo Akiyama to a three-year, $21 million deal.

General manager Jed Hoyer acknowledged the Cubs met with Akiyama during the Winter Meetings, though he admitted they weren’t the only team interested. Besides the Reds, the Rays and Diamondbacks also met with the 31-year-old.

"Yeah, we met with him,” Hoyer said in December. “Listen, a lot of teams were involved. Obviously he's a very good player and he's gonna have a good role on a major-league team this year, but I can't comment beyond that."

Akiyama is unproven as a big-leaguer but had a successful nine-year run in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball. He holds a career .301/.376/.454 slash line and hit .303 with a .392 on-base percentage in 2019.

For the Cubs, Akiyama would have been another center field option to go along with Ian Happ and Albert Almora Jr. He also would have been a true leadoff candidate for the Cubs — an area of need â€” though likely not as an everyday option.

The Cubs’ tight budget has been discussed ad nauseum this winter. They're trying to stay under MLB's $208 million luxury tax threshold and therefore have been limited in the free agent market this winter.

A three-year deal for Akiyama is semi-risky, considering his lack of big-league experience. However, $7 million annually isn’t a tremendous financial commitment. Perhaps the Cubs weren't comfortable offering that many years and/or dollars, but their admitted meeting shows they were interested in Akiyama.

Instead, he goes to a division rival in the Reds, who have made a number of impact moves this winter to improve following a 75-win 2019 season. 

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Reds reportedly agree to deal with Cubs target Shogo Akiyama

Reds reportedly agree to deal with Cubs target Shogo Akiyama

The Cincinnati Reds have already had an active offseason, but it appears they are still adding players. The Reds reportedly have a deal with Japanese center fielder Shogo Akiyama.

After rumors of the Reds being the leaders on Akiyama, the deal is agreed upon, according to MLB Network’s Joel Sherman.


The 31-year-old is obviously unproven as an MLB player, but has hit over .300 with an on-base percentage above .390 and 20 or more home runs in each of the past three seasons in Japan.

During the Winter Meetings, general manager Jed Hoyer admitted the Cubs had discussions with Akiyama. He could have filled two needs, center field and leadoff hitter.

Instead of the Cubs getting an upgrade at a position of need, he goes to a division rival that appears to be on the rise.

The three-year deal is a major commitment to an unproven commodity in his 30s, which may have scared off the Cubs. As with any free agent rumors involving the Cubs this offseason, it’s necessary to mention the team’s apparent desire to cut payroll to get under the luxury tax. Until they do so, it’s likely a factor on how the Cubs approach negotiations with free agents.

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Reds viewed as leaders for Cubs target Shogo Akiyama

Reds viewed as leaders for Cubs target Shogo Akiyama

Due to Albert Almora Jr.’s struggles last season, center field has become a priority for the Cubs this offseason.

One of the team’s targets is Japanese outfielder Shogo Akiyama. General manager Jed Hoyer admitted as much during the Winter Meetings.

"Yeah, we met with him,” Hoyer said on Dec. 12. “Listen, a lot of teams were involved. Obviously he's a very good player and he's gonna have a good role on a major-league team this year, but I can't comment beyond that."

Two weeks later, a report from Japan has the Cincinnati Reds as the leader for Akiyama’s services. The report also mentions the Cubs, Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Rays as contenders for Akiyama. The Diamondbacks recently agreed to a deal with outfielder Kole Calhoun, which may take them out of the running for Akiyama.

At this point, it’s obligatory to mention the Cubs’ desire to get under the luxury tax. That means it will require cutting significant salary to add someone like Akiyama. The 31-year-old could push eight figures annually given the competition for him.

With that in mind, it’s not surprising to see the Reds emerge as the frontrunner. The Reds have already added Mike Moustakas and Wade Miley this offseason so they appear to be going for it this season. Akiyama would fit in as another noteworthy addition.

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