The Cincinnati Reds outfield has all of the sudden become quite crowded. Tommy Pham reportedly agreed to a one-year/$7.5M contract. Since the contract has not yet become official, Cincinnati has not revealed who will lose their spot on the 40-man roster. With all things being equal, it should be Shogo Akiyama.
But I honestly cannot see the Reds pulling that trigger. Akiyama is in the final year of a three-year/$21M contract and is owed $8M this season. If Cincinnati outright released the 33-year-old, they'd still be on the hook for Akiyama's entire salary. That's a bitter pill for the notoriously cheap Bob Castellini to swallow.
The Reds should release Shogo Akiyama, not Aristides Aquino.
But what other choice do the Cincinnati Reds have? Well, there's always Aristides Aquino. The Punisher has not looked the same since his dominant debut in August of 2019. But, Aquino is one of the few right-handed bats that Reds manager David Bell could turn to off the bench.
You've also got a handful of pitchers who might get the axe. Ryan Hendrix and Riley O'Brien come to mind. There's also the recently-signed Zack Godley. But with so few pitchers having the ability to fully stretch out due to the abbreviated spring training, is it really the most prudent move to let one of your hurlers go?
Now believe me, I completely understand the group of Reds fans who want to say that Shogo Akiyama has never received a fair shake. I get it. But I could say the same thing about Aristides Aquino.
Akiyama has appeared in 142 games over the past two seasons and Aquino has played in 164 during the same time frame. Over the past two seasons, Akiyama has hit .224/.320/.274 with a wRC+ of 63. Aquino's slash line is .220/.307/.478 with a wRC+ of 97. If you ask me, the results speak for themselves; Aristides Aquino is the better player.
And I know everyone who wants to defend Akiyama will point to his defense. Sure, he handle his own on the outfield grass, but let's not act as if Aquino is a bad defender. He arguably has the strongest arm on the team and has sneaky-good speed.
If you take an objective look as the Cincinnati Reds outfield depth after the Tommy Pham signing, you're looking at the former Padre in left field, Nick Senzel in center, and Tyler Naquin in right field on most night. Jake Fraley is probably the team's fourth outfielder. Then I'd put Aquino and even TJ Friedl above Akiyama.
Yes, there were a myriad of reasons that Shogo Akiyama has never reached his potential since signing with the Cincinnati Reds prior to the 2020 season. The smart move is to release Akiyama. But we haven't seen the Reds make the wisest choices this spring.