Shogo Akiyama has never lived up to the hype. The Cincinnati Reds outfielder came to the club on a three-year/$21M deal prior to the 2020 season after many successful years overseas playing for the Seibu Lions. Akiyama, unfortunately, has just never found his footing since arriving in America.
I've said it before; no player on the Reds 2020 squad suffered more from the stoppage during spring training due to the COVID-19 pandemic than Akiyama. The left-handed hitting outfielder missed out on vital time with his new teammates.
Will the Reds find a trade partner for Shogo Akiyama?
While the culture change was always going to be an adjustment, trying to adapt to life in the USA amid a global pandemic would be extremely challenging. Akiyama struggled early on in 2020, but appeared to be on the right track during the final month of the abbreviated 2020 season.
After his first 75 plate appearances yielded a .224 batting average and a wRC+ of just 60, Akiyama turned things around and proceeded to hit .261 over his final 108 trips to the batters' box. He owned a walk-rate during that period of 16.7% and posted a wRC+ of 98.
But, during spring training of 2021, Shogo Akiyama had to leave Goodyear unexpectedly in order to attend to his injured wife. The time away didn't help, and upon his return, Akiyama injured his hamstring and began the 2021 season on the IL.
Akiyama never became a regular in the Cincinnati Reds lineup last season, despite a season-ending injury to Nick Senzel that the former first-round pick suffered in May. David Bell instead opted for the power-hitting Tyler Naquin in center field. The former Cleveland outfielder was flanked by a pair of All-Stars in Nick Castellanos and Jesse Winker.
Shogo Akiyama was little more than a defensive replacement late in games. The 33-year-old had just 183 plate appearances and hit just .204/.282/.253. Akiyama has yet to hit a home run in the big leagues despite three straight seasons of 20 or more round trippers during while playing in Japan.
With Akiyama owed $8M next season, it seems like the time is right for the Cincinnati Reds to find a willing trade partner. But does one exist? Would the Redlegs have to attach a prospect to a potential deal in order to move on from Akiyama? Which teams are most likely to take a flier on the Japanese outfielder?