According to Hochi Sports of Japan, outfielder Shogo Akiyama’s decision is down to the Cincinnati Reds and the San Diego Padres. And they note that a decision could be made by the end of the year.

This isn’t terribly surprising news, as it was reported on Christmas night that Nikkan Sports said the Reds were the top candidate to land the Japanese outfielder. MLB Trade Rumors projected a 2-year deal worth $6M for Akiyama. Bruce Levine of 670 The Score in Chicago noted at the Winter Meetings that the outfielder was seeking a deal of 2-years and $10M.

At those prices, it seems that there’s some question of exactly what teams expect from Shogo Akiyama. The contract doesn’t quite suggest teams believe he’s an every day kind of player – but also suggests that he’s more than a 150 plate appearance bench guy.

With the Reds being so closely linked to Akiyama I decided to take a look at the last decade of Japanese players making their way to Major League Baseball and was surprised by a whole lot of what I found.

The biggest surprise was the lack of players. Only five players in the last decade have come from Japan to Major League Baseball and registered at least 200 career plate appearances. One of those five players is Kenta Maeda – who is a pitcher.

There are two successes there, and two guys who struggled to hit. Shohei Ohtani and Nori Aoki were both successful, but they are also very different hitters. Aoki hit for average and walked about as often as he struck out, getting on base plenty. What he didn’t do was hit for much power. Ohtani walks plenty, but also strikes out plenty, too. But he’s got power that’s on a very different level.

Nori Aoki is an interesting statistical comparison for Shogo Akiyama. Well, sort of. Let’s take a look at how each performed in their final five seasons in Japan, and let’s be sure to note that Aoki was two years younger in his last five seasons than Akiyama was.

When you look at it like this there’s really two big differences between two players. Nori Aoki struck out just 9.5% of the time, while Shogo Akiyama struck out 14.3% of the time. That’s a difference of 50%. The other big difference is the power. Akiyama showed a bit more power than Aoki did with an IsoP (SLG-AVG) of .176 to .138.

Statistically, they are similar overall – but they got to the final line a bit different, too. This is why scouting is so important. The numbers can only tell you so much. Relying on your scouts to tell you how a player will transition to a game that’s pitched quite a bit differently matters. And the numbers won’t exactly tell you that. Cincinnati has had a presence in Japan for several years now, but they haven’t been able to sign anyone. Assuming all of the rumors are true at this point, the scouts certainly think that Shogo Akiyama can help the team out. Just how much, and in what specific role, though – that’s a bigger question.

34 Responses

  1. DrunkenViking

    I don’t like our chances against a west coast team, but if he wants to be on a playoff team he’ll sign with Cincinnati.

  2. RojoBenjy

    From what you’ve outlined here, the guy is not a lead pipe lock in CF?

    I’m a bit confused as to how he improves the club. i’m not criticizing. I’m just still vi fused after reading the analysis.

    Little help?

    • DrunkenViking

      It all depends on what else they have cooking on the stove. If a trade for Lindor is happening we will probably need a couple more outfielders so he would fill one spot. He may platoon in RF if Senzel stays in CF, or maybe Senzel moves to RF. Senzel may project better there. He definitely has the arm for it, and may help protect him from injuries. Too many unknowns at this point.

      • Jd

        Lindor will not be a Red. If Cincinnati really wanted him they would’ve already made the deal.

  3. Redsvol

    Lets go get Shogo. We need someone on base in the worst way. I’m not worried about him playing CF – Anyone with a little instinct can play center in GABP. The other 82 games can be covered by someone else. They need to get this done so they can move onto patching up the bullpen.

    I think the $ for Ozuna and Castellanos is going to get silly but I’d love to see Castellanos also as a Red.

  4. Mike

    .730 OPS nothing to write home about, but I guess we’re going the discount route instead of signing 1 of Ozuna/Castellanos and Corey Dickerson. Which kind of sucks given the hype about big spending all offseason.

    But what are we doing with Nick? Trading him? Moving him to short? RF perhaps?

    • Joe D.

      Where are you getting the 0.720 OPS? Is this your prediction? I’m not saying you’re right or wrong. Just curious.

      • Mike

        OPS is OBP + SLG. Aoki’s add up to .737 which is about what Akiyama will probably do, given you can knock 200 OPS points off from their Japanese stats when they come to MLB. I was thinking Kosuke Fukudome for his comparison, which he also lost 200+ off his OPS in the move to the U.S. Fukudome had better stats in Japan though and had a higher OPS here.

        Given that Corey Dickerson is a proven 800+ OPS guy and Nick certainly has that potential, settling for Shogo seems disappointing.

    • Joe D.

      As for being a little disappointed I get it. And somewhat agree. I’m hoping they’ll put more money in the bullpen if they sign Shogo.

  5. B-town fan

    I’ve been watching all the video on youtube that I can find of Shogo Akiyama and he is not a slap hitter, he can drive the ball with his swing, a very conventional swing. In the few full at bats that I could find, he appears to have good plate discipline, no wild swings, very good balance at the plate, strides toward the mound, no funky swing, like you see with some Japanese players. I was impressed from what I saw, seems like it would translate to MLB well, but no way to know for sure. I’m not a expert just a former athlete.

  6. Joey

    Choo wasn’t either but that turned out fine.

  7. TR

    Unless a big trade happens that thins out the current outfield personnel, I think Shogo Akiyama is the answer for now to help out Senzel in centerfield and be available, when needed, in the corner positions. To make sure the Reds get him, they could sweeten the pot a bit for what he’s asking.

  8. Sabr Chris

    Ozuna, Castellano, and even Dickerson are going to get starter money and then starter at bats. I hate that idea because I don’t think any of them are better than what we could already have. Shogo is the better option as the platoon/back up option for center and right at the appropriate price.

    • Brady

      Generally agree about Ozuna and Dickerson, but I wouldn’t mind paying Castellanos because of his age. That said, I don’t think they are in on him, so your line of thinking is probably similar to what the Reds are thinking.

      I don’t think signing Akiyama necessarily eliminates them from signing another OF piece, though. I could see an Ozuna / Akiyama combo if the price is right. The dynamic also changes if Senzel is somehow moved.

    • DrunkenViking

      Dickerson is reportedly signing with the Marlins. The market is thinning.

  9. Hotto4Votto

    I like Akiyama. I think he’ll add value to the Reds. I hope we get him, especially at the projected prices. He’s not the “last piece” of the puzzle though. He’ll help but he won’t offer the offensive upgrade we’re all hoping for or need to truly feel we’re ready to compete. If the Reds sign Akiyama they’ll still need to sign or trade for more offense. That or we’ll be left once again hoping everything goes right. Catcher and Shortstop still are the areas that are really weak offensively and we’ve got to figure out a way to address one of those spots or bring a real difference maker into the corner OF. What the Reds can’t do is sign Akiyama and call it a day. They need to keep adding.

    • Brady

      I don’t think they’re interested with the intention of calling it an offseason if he signs. I think they’re interested because he could make the team better and he’s cost effective enough that it would allow them the flexibility to continue making moved to improve the roster.

      • Hotto4Votto

        I certainly hope so, and largely expect this to be true. Where the questions start to arise for me is where do they add? SS and C, as I noted above, are the prominent areas that could use upgrading, but there is no one available in FA that upgrades the positions. There appears to be two significant upgrades available in trade at SS (Lindor, Seager) but both could be kept by their respective teams as well. Both of those guys may require some ML talent as well, which would then work to offset some of the value gained. If the Reds add Akiyama it gives them 5 OF’ers that seem likely to get some sort of regular playing time, yet each one of those 5 would come with questions as to what kind of production we should hope for. The Reds could still (and probably are best served) target another OF in FA, but at a certain point how many outfielders can one club carry, even with the 26th man?
        There’s time, and I like what they’ve done so far. I just don’t feel it’s enough improvement for the offense, and while I like Akiyama, he doesn’t really move the needle much either.

  10. AirborneJayJay

    There has been too much info that has gone public here on this one. That has not been the M.O. of the Reds front office this offseason. Don’t believe for a second they sign Akiyama.
    I guess since he is perceived as cheap, the Reds are all over him like a cheap suit.
    #NotHowToBuildAChampionshipTeam.
    #SquarePegRoundHole.

    • Brady

      Strangely enough, it does seem like they’ve been unable to land the guys they’ve been highly interested in, and the two major signings have gone under the radar. You lost me with the second part of your comment though. I don’t think they’re all over him because he’s cheap; I think they’re interested because if the stats can translate, he’s an excellent value at that price range. They certainly have not been “cheap” this offseason, which isn’t even over yet. I’m not sure if you’re bitter because they missed out on some of the higher priced guys, but it seems you assume they’ve been cheap and instead of them missing out because, ya know, it’s free agency.

      And besides that, getting guys who can hit and get on base at a pretty decent rate (assuming it translates over) is pretty good management if you ask me.

  11. Dawson

    To me, he is worth signing, especially for the price tag and number of years. It is pretty low risk. If his numbers carry over, or come close to carrying over, then it is a great signing. If he struggles, then he should still be able to contribute as an extra outfielder without hurting the payroll too much, or being a burden on the franchise for several years.

    I do agree with the concerns of where he fits in. Seems like we have a ton of outfielders that are on about the same level.

    If, and I hope it doesn’t happen, Senzel is traded away, Shogo would be an important signing. Hopefully, we can get Lindor or Seager without giving up Senzel. Doesn’t sound likely though.

  12. Steven Ross

    Padres. West Coast. Easier flight home.

    • vegastypo

      I doubt it would be the first time the Reds were used to drive the price higher while a player seeks to actually go elsewhere, if indeed this is somehow the case here.

      But a player looking to prove his mettle offensively might find it enticing to play in tiny GABP rather than San Diego’s Petco Park.

  13. IndyRedsFan

    I like the idea of signing him. Here’s the issue that I haven’t seen discussed. I would think that a player with his stats in Japan would want to join a team where he is a presumptive starter. (ie: the RF job is yours to lose)

    I would love to have him as an insurance policy and 4th outfielder, but I don’t think I would promise him a starting job. I might tell him he can compete with Aquino for the RF job, and if he doesn’t win RF, he would get plenty of at bats as a 4th outfielder. I expect that’s what the Reds are telling him, and he’s looking for someone to tell him he is a presumptive starter.

    • Klugo

      Shogo/Aquino LH/RH platoon in right. Winker/Ervin LH/RH platoon in left. That could be an effective OF and the start of a strong bench, too.

      • MBS

        That would limit Aquino to 200 to 300 AB’s. 14 of his 19 HR’s came off of Righties. If you think he’s a 40 HR guy, being the Righty in a platoon would make him a 15 HR guy.

  14. AirborneJayJay

    Heyman is reporting that Akiyama has 3 year offers on the table. Plural, so it would be safe to say the Reds are one of those. 3 years is too many on any deal for this cat. This is getting a bit out of hand. The front office set their ceilings on Grandal, Wheeler, and have with Castellanos. They didn’t go beyond that point. Here it seems their ceiling is adjustable. That could be a mistake.

    • DrunkenViking

      This isn’t surprising considering the CF free agent market is pretty much nil. Sounds like a bidding war may be happening. I would rather them go after a proven MLB outfielder if Senzel is staying in CF, but since Dickerson has reportedly signed the market is thinning.

    • Dawson

      Yeah if we can’t get him on a contract similar to the 2y/10m that was first being reported then I say pass. Certainly wouldn’t go much more than that.

  15. doofus

    Here is my offseason shopping list again:

    Offseason moves:
    -Fortify the starting pitching. check, (Miley)
    -Get an accomplished left-handed hitter. 1/2 filled (Moose).
    -Get a centerfielder.
    -Inject speed into the starting lineup.
    -Move Senzel to the dirt.
    -Trade for a young catcher and SS that provide defense and offense. I am not sold on T Stephenson or J Garcia.
    -Ensure that the bench is solid.

    I still think that there is more for the FO to do.

  16. Mike in Maine

    If the Reds lose out on Shogo, they should explore a trade for Starling Marte. Obviously the price will be high, higher even because both teams are in the same division. Even with that caveat, the Reds still have enough at both the major and minor league level to make a deal happen. Pirates need pitching, (probably not Amir Garrett) Reds have got young pitching talent to dangle … outfield surplus, check. Depending on how any prospective deal comes together, here’s the result … Reds complete their rebuild and jump-start the Pirates on theirs. It also increases rivalry and the competitive nature of the NL Central. That should put more fans in the stands with more to root for. Not to mention more money for each team, that’ll make the owners happy enough to consider such a deal.