3 possible trade scenarios for Reds outfielder Shogo Akiyama

Cincinnati Reds left fielder Shogo Akiyama (4) hits a sacrifice fly.
Cincinnati Reds left fielder Shogo Akiyama (4) hits a sacrifice fly. / David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
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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?

 A detail view of New York Yankees baseball hat.
A detail view of New York Yankees baseball hat. / Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

1. Would the Reds trade Shogo Akiyama to the Yankees?

If the Cincinnati Reds are serious about trading Shogo Akiyama, the odds are good that they'll have to include a prospect in any potential deal. I know that Nick Krall has been adamant about avoiding such a scenario, but that's the cost of doing business.

If there's any team in Major League Baseball who could afford to take on Akiyama's contract, it's the New York Yankees. While the Reds seem to have fleeced the Bronx Bombers in recent years, this would be a situation where the Yankees have the upper hand.

The Reds dealt Shed Long and a draft pick to the Yankees prior to the 2019 season in order to snag right-hander Sonny Gray and left-handed prospect Reiver Sanmartin. Gray went to the All-Star Game in 2019 and has revived his career since arriving in the Queen City.

Sanmartin made his major league debut last season, and there's chance that the southpaw will be part of the Cincinnati starting rotation in 2022. Sanmartin will be in a hotly contested battle with Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo for that coveted last spot in the rotation.

While the Yankees have a loaded outfield with Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Joey Gallo, and Aaron Hicks, New York did decline Brett Gardner's option earlier this offseason. While $8M is a lot to pay a rotational outfielder, if the Yanks received a mid-tier prospect in return, it might be worth it.

General view of the Oakland Athletics hat and glove.
General view of the Oakland Athletics hat and glove. / Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

2. Would the Reds trade Shogo Akiyama to the Athletics?

It would appear that the Oakland A's are on the verge of a full-on rebuild. Rather than take Oakland's approach, Cincinnati's front office seems intent on the idea of ridding themselves of bad contracts while trying to remain competitive.

Every other team in the AL West looks like a contender in 2022. The Houston Astros made it to the World Series again in 2021. The Texas Rangers went all-in with their free agent additions this offseason. The Seattle Mariners surprised everyone last season, and look to be a team on the rise. And the LA Angels have the two best players in baseball suiting up for them in 2022.

So, it would seem like as good a time as any for the Athletics to start a rebuild. Oakland missed out on the postseason last year after being in contention throughout a majority of the season. The A's finished 10 games above .500 but still missed the playoffs, and now their manager is off to San Diego.

The A's lost Starling Marte to the New York Mets during the offseason. One of Oakland's best players also landed in the Big Apple after Mark Canha signed a two-year pact with the Mets. Matt Olson, the A's Gold Glove-winning first baseman, may also be on the trade block.

Just was the case with the New York Yankees, one or more of the Cincinnati Reds minor league talents must be involved in order to seal the deal. While Nick Krall may want to avoid such a scenario, there's no other way Cincinnati will be able to rid themselves of Shogo Akiyama's $8M salary.

A Washington Nationals hat is seen prior the start of a spring training game.
A Washington Nationals hat is seen prior the start of a spring training game. / Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

3. Could the Reds trade Shogo Akiyama to the Nats?

After saying goodbye to Trea Turner and Max Scherzer at the trade deadline last summer, the Washington Nationals basically committed themselves to a rebuild. For their sake, I hope they find a way to hang on to All-Star outfielder Juan Soto.

But, if the Nats are truly looking to rebuild, they're going to want to restock their farm system. Mike Rizzzo did a good job of that last July when he netted catcher Keibert Ruiz, right-hander Josiah Gray, outfielder Donovan Casey, and right-hander Gerardo Carrillo.

The Nats will surely be looking to add to that haul this year and still have some impressive pieces, not named Juan Soto, that the franchise would likely be eager to part with. With the Reds in need of bullpen help, perhaps Nick Krall should target some of the Nationals' relief corps.

Once more, moving on from Shogo Akiyama will require the Cincinnati Reds to sacrifice one or more prospects. If the Reds are looking to improve their bullpen with capable arms, it may take more than just run-of-the-mill mid-tier prospect.

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Shogo Akiyama has been a bust since coming to Cincinnati. Again, I'm of the mindset that a lot of the outfielder's misfortunate was outside of his control. Still, baseball is a business, and if the Reds want to get out from underneath Akiyama's contract, there are likely some teams out there that will play ball.