1:39pm: The Reds and Akiyama are in agreement on a three-year contract, Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets.
1:03pm: The Reds are “working hard” to finalize an agreement with free-agent center fielder Shogo Akiyama, tweets MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, who adds that bidding for the longtime Seibu Lions star now exceeds three years and $20MM. Akiyama is represented by Excel Sports Management’s Casey Close.
A report from Nikkan Sports in Japan on Monday indicated that the two sides were in agreement on a deal, but both Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer and Mark Sheldon of MLB.com report that an agreement is not yet in place (Twitter links). Nikkan Sports reported that Akiyama had agreed to a three-year deal worth more than $15MM in total, but Sheldon, like Heyman, hears that bidding on the center fielder has exceeds that $15MM barometer by a “decent margin.”
Akiyama has topped 20 homers in each of the past three seasons and swiped 15-plus bags in each of the past five years. In all, since the 2015 season, he’s a .320/.398/.497 hitter. He’ll turn 32 next April, but his age doesn’t look to have been much of a hindrance in his market. He’s drawn interest from the Cubs, Diamondbacks and Padres, among others, and the fact that this winter’s free-agent market is largely devoid of quality center field options only aids his cause.
If Akiyama and the Reds do indeed finalize an agreement, he’ll be in line for regular reps and possibly push young Nick Senzel into a multi-position role, where he could log time in the infield and across the outfield. The Reds could also simply deploy Akiyama in a corner with Senzel in center, although their outfield mix also features Jesse Winker, Aristides Aquino, Scott Schebler, Phil Ervin and offseason pickups Travis Jankowski and Nick Martini.
Of that bunch, Winker and Aquino currently top the depth chart and are the favorites for regular corner work in 2020, but the entire unit carries some degree of uncertainty. Akiyama would further add to that uncertainty, but he’d also bring a good bit of upside that some of the incumbent options can’t match.