Reds, Akiyama agree to 3-year, $21M deal

January 6th, 2020

CINCINNATI -- The Reds on Monday signed Japanese outfielder Shogo Akiyama to a three-year, $21 million deal and will introduce the five-time Japanese All-Star at a news conference on Wednesday. The contract includes salaries of $6 million in 2020, $7 million in 2021 and $8 million in 2022.

Akiyama, who will wear No. 4, becomes the first Japanese player in the 150-year history of the Reds, the last big league club to add a player from that nation. During the previous offseason, the organization added Pacific Rim scouting manager Rob Fidler and Pacific Rim scout Jamey Storvick, but has had its eye on Akiyama for even longer.

"We scouted Shogo for several years in anticipation of his free agency," president of baseball operations Dick Williams said in a statement. "We like his approach at the plate as well as his outfield defense, and we think he will complement our team very well."

Akiyama, who also drew interest from the Padres and Cubs, was at the Winter Meetings in San Diego last month to meet with clubs, including the Reds. He and Cincinnati agreed to a deal on Dec. 30, but he needed additional time to schedule a second trip from Japan to the U.S. for a physical. That physical was performed on Monday.

Akiyama, who turns 32 on April 16, is a .301 career hitter in nine seasons with the Seibu Lions and made all five of his Pacific League All-Star teams in each of the last five seasons. The left-handed hitter has averaged 23 homers over his last three years. In 2015 he set a Nippon Professional Baseball single-season record with 216 hits.

A six-time Pacific League Gold Glove-winning center fielder for Seibu, including in 2019, Akiyama appears to project more as a corner outfielder in the Major Leagues, but he gives Cincinnati a trusted center fielder behind Nick Senzel, who is working his way back from surgery on his right shoulder. The other outfielders on the club include Jesse Winker, Aristides Aquino and Phillip Ervin. It’s unclear how all of them will fit into the 2020 plans.

In 2019, Akiyama batted .303/.392/.471 with 20 home runs. Because of his service time in Nippon Professional Baseball, he is not subject to the expensive posting rules that currently exist for many Japanese players who want to cross over to Major League Baseball.

It’s been a busy winter for Williams and general manager Nick Krall as they have placed a premium on trying to upgrade the lineup.

On Dec. 5, a key piece to achieve that goal came as Mike Moustakas was signed to a four-year deal worth $64 million – the largest free-agent contract completed by the Reds. On Dec. 18, the rotation was bolstered by the signing of lefty starter Wade Miley to a two-year, $15 million contract.

Williams and Krall pursued other outfielders on the open market -- including the top two, Nicholas Castellanos and Marcell Ozuna. 

The addition of Akiyama -- with his track record of high on-base percentages -- could give Cincinnati a solid leadoff or No. 2 hitter if his success in Japan can translate to Major League Baseball.