Cubs Were Reportedly Already Scouting Japanese Center Fielder Shogo Akiyama This Season

Earlier this month, word came out of Japan that star centerfielder Shogo Akiyama, a free agent this offseason, was looking to come to MLB.

I took a look at Akiyama as a possible fit for the Cubs, and, although the transition from NPB to MLB, plus his age (31) as a speed guy, do present obvious risks, there were a number of reasons to see him as a perfect fit for the Cubs. A roll of the dice? Sure. But a really well-fitting one.

Well, soon after that post – and missed by me until a recent curation at MLBTR called out a similar report – Nikkan Sports wrote up Akiyama’s future, which included specific mention of four teams that scouted Akiyama this season: the Mariners, the Padres, the Diamondbacks, and … yup, the Cubs.

It would make plenty of sense for the Cubs, with an obvious hole in the outfield and at the top of the lineup, to be scouting a potential free agent like Akiyama. He could be a high-contact, high-OBP, good-defense, good-baserunning addition to a team that needs a boost in all of those areas. I’m very glad to hear that he’s been on the Cubs’ radar for a while now.

It’s not a lock that Akiyama will be coming to MLB this offseason, as it sounds like his team, the Seibu Lions, are still trying to re-sign him. Reportedly, he has a five-year, $23 million offer in hand, which is particularly lucrative for the NPB. That said, if you could turn his head on a three to four-year, $20-25 million deal, is that really such a huge risk for a guy who might at least wind up a very good fourth outfielder? And who has the possible upside of a very good leadoff hitter?

Much more on Akiyama, and the fit with the Cubs, here if you missed it:

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Brett Taylor is the Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and on LinkedIn here. Brett is also the founder of Bleacher Nation, which opened up shop in 2008 as an independent blog about the Chicago Cubs. Later growing to incorporate coverage of other Chicago sports, Bleacher Nation is now one of the largest regional sports blogs on the web.

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