CINCINNATI – Outfielder Shogo Akiyama on Monday 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, 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 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 Pacific League, Akiyama batted .301 and was a six-time Golden Glove Award winner, including five straight seasons through 2019. He set an NPB 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.
In other MLB news, pitcher Shun Yamaguchi is guaranteed $6.35 million as part of his two-year contract with the Toronto Blue Jays, a deal that allows the 32-year-old right-hander to earn $9.15 million if he pitches at least 170 innings per season.
Yamaguchi gets salaries of $3,175,000 per season as part of the deal announced Dec. 28. He would earn $100,000 each for 70, 80, 90 and 100 innings; $100,000 apiece for 110 and 120; $125,000 each for 130 and 140; $150,000 for 150; and $250,000 apiece for 160 and 170. Yamaguchi cannot be sent to the minor leagues without his consent and is eligible for free agency when the contract ends.
Toronto owes a $1.27 million posting fee to the Yomiuri Giants under the agreement between NPB and MLB. The Blue Jays would have to pay the Giants an additional 20 percent of any bonuses earned.
Yamaguchi was 15-4 with a 2.61 ERA last season. He is 64-58 with a 3.35 ERA in 14 seasons in Japan.