This was a move that has been in the works for quite some time. Cincinnati Reds General Manager Nick Krall announced on Sunday that outfielder Shogo Akiyama will not make the Opening Day roster and will be designated for assignment.
The Reds will still be on the hook for Akiyama's $8M salary unless another team plucks him off waivers. That seems highly unlikely as Akiyama's performance barley warrants the league minimum salary.
It's been a long and bumpy road for Shogo Akiyama since coming to the United States after many successful seasons in Japan. A shortened spring training in 2020, injuries, his inability to hit major league pitching, and lack of playing time all contributed to Akiyama's upcoming departure.
Reds OF Shogo Akiyama will be DFA'd prior to Opening Day.
According to Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Reds do not have the ability to option Akiyama to the minor leagues without his consent. Apparently, last season, the Reds attempted to option Akiyama to the minors, but he refused. Shogo has hit just .182 this spring after slashing .204/.282/.253 last season in 183 plate appearances.
One would assume that Shogo Akiyama will reject the Cincinnati Reds attempt to send him to the minor leagues again this season. Instead, the 33-year-old is likely to choose free agency. With the Redlegs on the hook for the entirety of Akiyama's contract, he could sign with any team for the league minimum and still take home the remainder ($8M) of his contract.
This is good news for Aristides Aquino who will likely serve as the Reds fifth outfielder to begin the 2022 season. Tommy Pham, Nick Senzel, Tyler Naquin, and Jake Fraley figure to be four of the Reds' five outfielder this season. However, Aquino will be on a short leash, and if he doesn't show the ability to make contact, he'll likely join Akiyama in the free agent market.
More than anything, it's disappointing to see the Cincinnati Reds and Shogo Akiyama part ways. While it's the right decision, it's certainly a costly one. The Reds also have Max Schrock, an infielder who's capable of playing left field, who can fill in following Akiyama's departure. TJ Friedl, who was recently optioned to Triple-A, is another outfielder we'll see in 2022 as well.