According to reports, the Chicago Cubs will watch free agent outfielder Shogo Akiyama play for the division rival Cincinnati Reds next season.
Continuing an offseason that can only be called unacceptable to Cubs fans, free agent outfielder Shogo Akiyama is reportedly set to join the Cincinnati Reds on a three-year deal worth more than $15 million total.
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The Japanese standout would have checked a pair of boxes for Chicago, both in center field and as a leadoff hitter. Akiyama carries a .301/.376/.454 line in nine seasons playing overseas and has boasted a .399 on-base percentage over the last five years. Given the Cubs ranked near the bottom of the league last year in pretty much every offensive category out of the leadoff spot, this one is tough to swallow.
Now, transitioning to Major League Baseball isn’t easy – nor should it be taken lightly. Akiyama’s success is far from guaranteed but for a measly $5 million, this sure feels like a move an organization like the Cubs should have made, regardless of risk.
Right now, the team’s plan in center field appears to be betting on a rebound performance from former first-round pick Albert Almora. Of course, he’s coming off one of the worst seasons of his professional career and has been one of the worst players in the game for the better part of two years.
So as the North Siders continue gambling on guys who’ve shown they’re not capable (at least consistently) of putting up numbers at the big league level, the Reds are very suddenly looking like a legitimate contender in the National League Central.
Cincinnati boasts a rotation featuring the likes of Trevor Bauer, Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray and Wade Miley – along with several other depth options. The club brought in Mike Moustakas to shore up the offense – along with Akiyama. This team is ready to take the next step and, unlike Chicago, they’re taking it in the right direction.
So, here’s to 2020 – because with how 2019 went, it clearly wasn’t the Cubs’ year. Let’s hope that the next trip around the sun goes better than the last, because this one is ending on a major down note.