June 26: Akiyama has signed a three-year deal with the NPB’s Hiroshima Carp, per C. Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic.
June 20: Former Reds outfielder Shogo Akiyama is headed back to Japan, Akiyama himself tells Japanese media (English languagelink via the Japan Times). A report from The Manichi in Japan suggests that Akiyama’s former team, the Seibu Lions, could have an offer waiting for him.
Originally signed by the Reds to a three-year, $21MM contract heading into the 2020 season, Akiyama was never able to replicate the star-level production he’d showed with the Lions over a nine-year career in Nippon Professional Baseball. The now-34-year-old outfielder tallied just 366 plate appearances with Cincinnati and posted an underwhelming .224/.320/.274 batting line — a far cry from the brilliant .301/.376/.454 batting line he posted in nine years with his former Seibu club.
The Reds released Akiyama partway through the third and final season of that contract, and he quickly landed a minor league deal with the Padres. Akiyama recently opted out of that contract, however, and he tells the Japanese media that his agent informed him there were no offers from big league teams. Akiyama didn’t specify whether that meant no Major League offers or no offers at all, but given that he just hit .343/.378/.529 with three homers, two doubles, a triple and a pair of steals in 16 games with the Padres’ Triple-A affiliate in El Paso, it wouldn’t be a surprise if there had been other minor league opportunities available.
It remains to be seen whether Akiyama will ultimately return to the Lions, sign with another team in NPB, or simply take the remainder of the year off. However, his return and acknowledgement of a lack of MLB interest looks to have closed the door on any near-term return to North American ball. He only recently turned 34, though, so Akiyama ought to have other opportunities to add to an impressive collection of accolades in Japan, where he’s a six-time Gold Glove winner and five-time NPB All-Star.