Free agency hasn’t officially started, but of course teams are already doing their due diligence and background work on players who will be available this winter. That includes Japanese free agent Shogo Akiyama. When you think about Japanese players you normally factor in teams going through the posting system, but that’s not the case for Akiyama, who is open to signing with anyone this offseason without an extra fee attached to his contract.
In a weak free agent class for center fielders, the Cubs should definitely look into the 31-year-old, left-handed hitter. He has plus speed, plays good defense, makes a lot of contact and has shown great discipline at the plate playing in Japan.
And guess what, the Cubs have reportedly shown some interest in Akiyama.
As a recent Yahoo Japan report covers, the Seibu Lions have made clear that they intend to pursue Akiyama with a long-term offer. Other NPB clubs may also be involved, that report indicates. But MLB outfits have been tracking him as well. The report suggests that at least four teams — the Mariners, Padres, Diamondbacks, and Cubs — have at least taken a look at Akiyama.
The Seibu Lions reportedly offered Akiyama a contract extension last year and are planning to offer/have offered him another deal this offseason as well. So, they definitely want him back, but it also appears that Akiyama wants to see what the interest level is outside of Japan.
So, how much would it cost the Cubs? Well, Akiyama reportedly has a five-year, $23 million offer on the table to stay with the Lions according to this Baseball Prospectus report.
Nice little scouting report there too.
There’s always a risk when signing international players because you don’t quite know how their skills will translate in MLB, but it’s not like the Cubs are going to have to break the bank to sign Shogo.
They’re at least interested right now and at the end it might be worth the gamble, depending on other offseason moves, which there should be several after a disappointing 2019 season. It’s still way early in the process, but Shogo is definitely on the Cubs’ free agency radar.