Japanese star outfielder Shogo Akiyama has filed for international free agency. Should the Cincinnati Reds pursue Akiyama to take over for Nick Senzel?
There is certainly no center field upgrades to speak of in free agency. With Starling Marte likely to be retained by the Pittsburgh Pirates, if the Cincinnati Reds wish to move Nick Senzel to the infield and upgrade the outfield, it’ll have to be through a trade. Or, the Reds could go a different route and sign Japanese outfielder Shogo Akiyama.
The Reds are the only Major League Baseball team to have never had a Japan-born player on their roster. That could change this season if the front office wishes to pursue Akiyama. An outfielder for the Seibu Lions, Akiyama declared his intention on Tuesday to pursue a career in the major leagues.
For the last nine years, Akiyama has been part of Nippon Professional Baseball, the highest level of baseball in Japan. As a centerfielder for the Siebu Lions of the NPB, Akiyama has a career slash line of .301/.376/.454 with 116 home runs and 513 RBIs. Over the past three seasons, Akiyama has a combined batting average of .311 with 20 or more home runs each season.
Since Akiyama is filing for International free agency, teams would be able to negotiate a contract with the 31-year-old outfielder no different than any other potential free agent. Akiyama will not have to go through the posting system.
With the Reds seeking an increase in offensive production heading into the 2020, perhaps adding Akiyama to the roster would help. Akiyama is a left-handed hitter with some power. Last season, Akiyama posted an .864 OPS and has an OPS above .800 in each of the past five seasons.
There’s still no confirmation from the Cincinnati Reds that Nick Senzel is being moved from center field to the infield, but with a likely vacancy at second base, it makes a lot of sense to move the University of Tennessee alum back to his more natural position on the dirt. Senzel is recovering from shoulder surgery, but should be ready to go by the time spring training rolls around.
There are trade options available, with the likes of Marte, Ender Inciarte of the Atlanta Braves and possibly even Chris Taylor of the Los Angeles Dodgers available for the right price. While it’s obviously not the Reds style to make flashy signings from overseas, Shogo Akiyama represents an upgrade at a position of need heading into 2020.