Yes. Good. This is very appropriate and it makes me happy.
For about a month now, we’ve been pushing the idea that the Chicago Cubs should take a serious look at Japanese free agent Shogo Akiyama, a speedy leadoff type who plays center field. There’s obvious risk in the transition from NPB to MLB, and Shogo will play most of next season at age 32, but when the on-paper fit is so obvious and the financial risk is likely so small, you’ve gotta pursue. You gotta.
And, after previously scouting Akiyama this past season, the Cubs are indeed in on the free agent, per Patrick Mooney: “The Cubs have Japanese outfielder Shogo Akiyama on their radar as they explore ways to boost production from the leadoff spot and improve their up-the-middle defense.”
Akiyama is currently recovering from (we think) a broken toe, but there hasn’t been any reporting that his Spring Training would be compromised. The price tag on a Shogo signing figures to be very modest, though the risks and the limited upside are the primary reasons.
Although Akiyama has been a prolific hitter in the NPB, including on the power side, he is thought by most to translate to MLB more as a slap-style, high-contact type who might get on base at a decent clip and run the bases well, all while playing solid defense in center field. Again: perfect fit for the Cubs’ needs if it works, and, if it doesn’t, he might still be a useful bench player. Consider that the Cubs aren’t overflowing with quality outfield options right now – instead, they simply have a decent, solid group. Adding Akiyama to the mix, even if he winds up on the bench, is something the Cubs can easily accommodate.