Even if the Cincinnati Reds fail to sign free agent Marcell Ozuna, the addition of Shogo Akiyama is enough to solidify the outfield heading into 2020.
The Cincinnati Reds made history on Monday when the team officially signed their first Japanese-born player, Shogo Akiyama, to a three-year contract. What Akiyama’s role with the team will be is yet to be determined, but the 31-year-old has the ability to play all three outfield positions. Regardless of any additional signings, Akiyama’s deal solidifies Cincinnati’s heading into 2020.
Akiyama’s deal is worth a reported $21M. He’ll receive $6M this coming season, $7M in 2021, and $8M in 2022 according to C. Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic. Given the landscape of what’s available in terms of free agent outfielders, the Reds may have a bargain on their hands if Akiyama’s numbers from Japan translate to the MLB.
Last season, Akiyama slashed .303/.392/.471 with 20 home runs and 62 RBIs as a member of the Seibu Lions of Nippon Professional Baseball. For his career, Akiyama is a .301 hitter with an on-base percentage of .376. He’ll likely hit atop the Reds batting order.
While Cincinnati has been rumored to still be in the hunt for free agent outfielder Marcell Ozuna, Akiyama’s signing takes the pressure off the necessity of such as signing. The front office already added Mike Moustakas to the lineup. With the likes of Moustakas, Aristides Aquino, Joey Votto, and Eugenio Suárez in the lineup already, the Reds have adequate hitting.
If the Reds were to somehow add Marcell Ozuna, I wouldn’t complain. In fact, adding his bat brings yet another element to an already loaded Cincinnati outfield and perhaps opens the door for a potential trade in what would then become an overcrowded position.
Still, if Cincinnati stands pat, they have plenty of options. Whether Senzel is traded, remains in center field, or moves to shortstop will have a big impact on the Reds plans for Akiyama, but his versatility allows Dick Williams and Nick Krall to kick the tires on a potential trade.
If Senzel does remain in center field, look for Akiyama to be the everyday left fielder with a possible platoon of Aquino and Winker in right. There’s always the possibility that Winker could be dealt as well. The New York native has a great talent for getting on base, but concerns about his inability to hit left-handers and stay healthy give fans cause to pause.
Regardless, the addition of Shogo Akiyama does nothing but help the Cincinnati Reds in 2020. I think it’s fair to count he and Aquino among the regulars on next year’s team. While the other outfielders on the roster carry a question mark or two, once spring training starts, a lot of the details will be worked out.