CINCINNATI (AP) — Outfielder Shogo Akiyama agreed to a $21 million, three-year deal with the Cincinnati Reds, the only major league team that hasn’t had a player born in Japan.
Akiyama, 31, became a free agent after his ninth season with the Seibu Lions in Japan’s Pacific League, where he was a five-time All-Star. The center fielder could move to one of the corner spots in Cincinnati’s unsettled outfield.
Akiyama gets $6 million this year, $7 million in 2021 and $8 million in 2022.
Center fielder Nick Senzel is returning from surgery on his right shoulder, and the addition of Akiyama gives the Reds another option at that spot. They also have outfielders Aristides Aquino, Jesse Winker and Phillip Ervin.
“We scouted Shogo for several years in anticipation of his free agency,” said Dick Williams, Cincinnati’s president of baseball operations. “We like his approach at the plate as well as his outfield defense, and we think he will complement our team very well.”
It’s the second significant offseason move by the Reds to try to upgrade an offense that ranked near the bottom of the NL in runs last season. They also signed second baseman baseman Mike Moustakas to a $64 million, four-year deal — the largest for a free agent in club history.
Cincinnati also signed Wade Miley to a $15 million, two-year contract that added a left-hander to its deep rotation that already included All-Stars Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray, along with Trevor Bauer and Anthony DeSclafani.
The Reds are trying to emerge from a rut of six straight losing seasons.
During nine seasons in the Japanese major leagues, Akiyama batted .301 and was honored four times as one of the league’s top defensive outfielders. He set a Nippon Professional Baseball season record with 216 hits in 2015.
With Seibu last season, he batted .303 with 31 doubles, four triples, 20 homers and 62 RBIs, winning his fifth All-Star spot.